Is Imposter Syndrome Playing Tug-of-War With Your Confidence?

Imposter Syndrome, by definition, is a false signal. It contradicts reality.

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If you knew someone to be a fraud, you would most likely be on your guard and summarily reject their attempts at persuasion. Their arguments would sound hollow, their concern insincere, their criticism meaningless. 

Imposter Syndrome, a psychological pattern that often deceives high-performing professionals into feeling inadequate, intellectually inferior, plagued by self-doubt, undeserving of their success and convinced they don’t belong at the level they’re at, in spite of external evidence of their competence to the contrary, is such a fraud (the irony is self-evident).

A few ideas to zap it of its power:

1. Clip the dictionary definition of this fraud and put it where you can see it, to remind yourself: Imposter Syndrome, by definition, is a false signal. It contradicts reality. Read up on the research. 

2. Focus on your objective value, to others, to your organization, what you bring to the table, the positive results you’ve delivered, the people who rely on your expertise and contributions, your impact on people’s lives. Your inner critic will try to minimize and distract from these markers of your success and value. Expose it and confront it for the fraud it is. 

3. Harness any lingering feelings of inadequacy and develop a growth mindset. Realize that you can always learn what you don’t know, that you can improve upon the skills you need. Resolve to invest time and effort in your development and seek out the allies and resources you need to do so. 

4. Get out of your head and get observer feedback. Ask others what they appreciate about you, what wouldn’t have happened without you, and what you should keep doing. Whenever self-doubt creeps in, re-read their comments. 

5. Finally, cut yourself some slack. There will always be people who are faster, smarter, better (whatever that means), than any one of us, and an even bigger number of people who aren’t. Accept it as a law of nature and do the best you can. 

The next time you’re holding back in a meeting, feel inadequate around colleagues, or doubt whether you deserve to be where you are, put it in the proper perspective. Do a cold analysis: Is it your inner critic harassing you, playing on your emotions, shooting down your accomplishments, or are you simply practicing strategic self-awareness, negative emotions in check, recognizing your opportunities to fill important gaps in knowledge or skill? 

The answer, as the saying goes, will set you free. 

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