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Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: 6 Evidence-Based Strategies

Strategies for increasing self-validation, confidence, and worth.

Key points

  • The journey to overcome imposter syndrome is both personal and transformative.
  • Embrace these 6 strategies for bolstering self-validation and recognizing self-worth.
  • The imposter syndrome narrative doesn't have to be the only one; you have the power to rewrite it.
Josh Hild/ Pexels
Source: Josh Hild/ Pexels

Imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon, entails persistent feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt despite evident achievements.

Individuals experiencing imposter syndrome often attribute their successes to luck or external factors, disregarding their own competence. This internalized sense of fraudulence can lead to anxiety, fear of exposure, and a cycle of overworking to prove oneself.

It affects people across various domains, hindering their ability to recognize their worth and contributions. The following will explain how to tackle imposter feelings.

1. Gather accomplishment evidence: Collecting evidence of your accomplishments is a crucial strategy to combat imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Start by creating a dedicated space and time to compile tangible proofs of your achievements, such as certificates, awards, and positive feedback.

Keep a journal where you jot down successful projects, milestones reached, and compliments received. Utilize screenshots or photos of your work in action, whether it's a presentation you nailed or a project you completed. Don't hesitate to request endorsements or recommendations from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors, which can serve as external validation.

Additionally, maintain a record of personal growth moments, highlighting instances where you tackled challenges head-on and emerged victorious. Regularly revisit this collection of evidence to remind yourself of your capabilities and progress, helping you silence the doubts that imposter syndrome often fuels. For example, every Sunday from 10-10:30 a.m. in my home office.

2. Replace negative thoughts with better ones: Challenge thoughts such as, “I am not good at anything.” Instead, ask yourself to come up with three things you are good at. Another common thought is, “I need to work harder than everyone to achieve the same success.”

Convert that thought to a strength: “I have a good work ethic.” Many people struggling with imposter feelings believe that they don’t belong. It is helpful to remember that you were selected to get that position at work or to get accepted into the program.

You didn’t slip through the cracks. Committee members know what they are doing and have carefully selected you. Believing that you don’t belong would mean that all these people don’t know what they are doing.

3. Define success clearly and tangibly: Often, people with imposter feelings endorse an all-or-nothing policy of success. “I must be successful in all my roles all the time.” Instead of setting an unrealistic standard of perpetual success across all roles and endeavors, recognize that success is multifaceted and context-dependent.

Establish clear, achievable goals for each specific role or task, outlining what success means in those contexts. Understand that setbacks and challenges are integral parts of growth, and they don't invalidate your overall progress.

By breaking down success into manageable components and acknowledging that it's OK to face occasional setbacks, you can cultivate a more balanced perspective and alleviate the pressure of maintaining an unsustainable level of excellence in all aspects of life.

4. What does good enough look like? It is crucial to answer this question because it implicitly permits the person to be OK at some tasks. People burnout when they must excel in every task, role, and all the time.

What tasks need to be completed with just good enough performance? What exactly does good enough look like, so you can stop yourself when you get to that point This allows you to move on to preserve your energy for other important tasks such as spending time with loved ones.

5. Generate a post-mistake compassionate plan: It is inevitable that we will all make mistakes. Striving to be mistake-proof generates extreme perpetual anxiety that ironically leads to committing more errors. Write a compassionate plan in preparation for future mistakes. Find a person to witness this plan and sign it.

Here is a template I have created for those who struggle with imposter feelings, social anxiety, or self-doubt:

I am reaching out to you because I trust you and feel comfortable with you. However, at times I don’t trust myself or I might be really hard on myself. So, I came up with a plan of how to compassionately move forward after I make a mistake. In order to hold myself accountable I wanted you to witness this contract and sign it. Would you be comfortable doing that?

6. Partner with a life coach you admire: Collaborating with a seasoned life coach who has not only achieved success but also possesses qualities you admire can indeed be a life-changing journey. Their depth of experience and honed expertise can serve as a wellspring of guidance, steering you through the complexities of your goals and aiding in the cultivation of resilience against challenges, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome.

An essential aspect of this relationship is the opportunity to learn from their journey. By candidly discussing their own obstacles, pivotal learning moments, and battles with self-doubt, you gain a more profound insight into their path to success. This exchange not only humanizes the concept of achievement but also equips you with strategies and perspectives that can be instrumental in your own pursuit of growth.

Through these interactions, you'll find that imposter feelings can be mitigated by realizing that even the most accomplished individuals have faced similar doubts yet managed to overcome them with perseverance and strategic thinking.

In conclusion, the journey to overcome imposter syndrome is both personal and transformative. By embracing these six strategies for bolstering self-validation, recognizing self-worth, and mastering self-confidence, individuals can navigate the complexities of self-doubt with newfound resilience.

Remember, the imposter syndrome narrative doesn't have to be the only one. You have the power to rewrite it, shedding the weight of inadequacy and embracing the truth of your accomplishments. With dedication and practice, the days of constant struggle against imposter syndrome can be replaced with a journey of growth, self-acceptance, and lasting success.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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