The term impostor syndrome, coined in 1978, is described as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Basically, when you feel inadequate despite evident success. (Like who am I to write this article?) Ouch. Sound familiar?
Kids may have developed it based on questionable parenting skills. High achievers may have it, never thinking they’ve done enough. Perfectionists who never think their work is good enough. The list of “impostors” goes on and one. There’s a host of reasons why someone could be living with impostor syndrome. While it’s very real and debilitating, someone might not even realize that they are, in fact, living with it.
If you’re thinking about starting a new endeavor and stepping outside of your comfort zone, you may be even more susceptible to it. I see this with my career coaching clients all the time. Though impostor syndrome isn’t an official diagnosis, psychologists acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.
Here’s the good news. While the root cause isn’t entirely clear, there are things you can do to tackle impostor syndrome. Because you (yes, YOU) deserve to overcome it!
Start by acknowledging it.
Recognize and call out these disruptive thoughts and feelings when they emerge. Once you know what it feels like and can recognize the “impostor” within you, you’ll have an easier time overcoming it. Make a mental note or better yet, write your thoughts down as they occur. It can be anything from “I’m not good enough to give this presentation” or “I don’t deserve this project” or “I got lucky with this award”. Not. True. While having a bit of humility about your work is OK, experiencing paralyzing fear over it is not.
Change your mental programming.
Reframe your thoughts and realize that what you’re feeling isn’t founded on anything real. Feelings of inadequacy and fear are all in your head, so imagine how you’d feel if you could turn these thoughts into something positive. Instead of thinking something like “I don’t know anything” why not try reframing it to “I don’t know everything…yet. I’m still learning”? See how it feels when you don’t put the pressure on yourself to know it all. After all, no one is perfect.
Realize you aren’t perfect.
In fact, no one is. Perfectionism and impostor syndrome tend to go hand-in-hand, so cut yourself some slack. Try finishing a project before you “think” it’s ready for completion. Start that business plan, and ask for help if you need it. It’s more than OK to do so. (Don’t let your ego overthink it!) You may never bring that great idea to fruition if you wait for it to be “perfect” in your mind. And wouldn’t that be a shame?
Take note of your achievements.
While you may not be perfect, you certainly are great at many things. Make a list of your strengths, and take note of everything you’re good at. Then, make a list of your weaknesses or areas you’d like to improve on, and focus on developing those areas. Personal development is healthy. Just don’t forget to also take note of your achievements.
Remember, you aren’t alone.
You aren’t the only one who struggles with feelings of inadequacy. Find someone you can talk to, whether it be a coach, friend, or therapist. You don’t need to tackle this alone. (You probably think you do since that’s another trait of impostor syndrome, but luckily you don’t.) There’s a whole community of people out there who are also struggling to feel good enough.
With effort and mental reprogramming, you can learn to overcome your doubt and celebrate your accomplishments. It’s no easy task, but imagine how liberated you’ll feel once your feelings of anxiety and fears of “getting found out” subside.
Impostor no more. You got to where you are today because you deserve to be there.
By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
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