What can start as a quiet, nagging voice in the back of your head telling you you’re not qualified for a job or task can quickly evolve into paralyzing self-doubt and the fear that you’ll be “found out.” Welcome to impostor syndrome — an affliction that’s more common than you may think.
If you need more proof, look no further than former first lady Michelle Obama to comedy powerhouse Tina Fey — both of whom have dealt with this nagging type of self-doubt. Fortunately, we all have the power to manage it — and even harness it to fuel our success — we just need the right tools.
We asked seven career and life coaches to share the tips they use to beat impostor syndrome. Use their advice to fuel your success.
Reframe your negative thoughts
“A very effective technique I share with clients is to examine your triggers and gut instinct. How else can you reframe the way you are seeing yourself when you feel like you’re not enough? Were you successful in this at some point in your life? What about you made you effective? Create a list of your wins, and consider the role those wins play in your success.”
—Susan J. Hilger, certified life and leadership coach, St. Petersburg, FL
Spend time with people who love you
“When I’m feeling low and don’t really understand why, I spend substantial time with loved ones at a bright and buzzing place, with nothing related to why I’m feeling ‘low,’ and just stay in the moment.”
— Aakriti Agarwal, coach, facilitator, and image consultant, Hyderabad, India
Turn down your “impostor volume”
“I remember the saying, ‘Being assertive is not the same as not being afraid.’ It helps me move forward and turn down the ‘impostor volume.’”
—Lena Beck Roervig, coach and speaker, Cannes, France
Recall your true purpose
“When I need to beat impostor syndrome or I’m working with a client who does, I find three strategies helpful: The first one is to look for evidence that I’m ready, prepared, capable, etc. The second is to remember who I am by focusing on my core values, and my progress aligning with them. The third one is to remind myself of my purpose.”
—Lauren S. Tashman, Ph.D., mental performance coach, New York, NY
Seek some encouragement
“When I’m feeling like an impostor I call up a friend who knows me well and I ask her to tell me three of the best attributes she believes I have. I simply listen and take it all in. I say ‘thank you’ and hang up. All the exhaustive energy and anxiety I previously experienced simply goes away. I feel seen for who I really am.”
—Pat Obuchowski, executive leadership coach, San Francisco, CA, USA
Build yourself up with positive affirmations
“One of my strategies for beating impostor syndrome is to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. My first step is to sit in silence and observe my thoughts. So much goes on inside our heads that we are not consciously aware of, so it’s important to first be aware of what you tell yourself. Then I create positive affirmations that challenge anything negative. For example, if I think I’m inadequate in some way, I write and recite affirmations that focus on how much experience I have.”
—Yasmina Hedhli, leadership coach, London, UK
Grow your support network
“Build your troop — this is your trusted network of friends and colleagues. They are the people you go to for help, talk through problems with, and who help you dust yourself off and keep going. You need people who listen and challenge you, who on your side, and you should ultimately trust them. In addition to building your troop of people who boost your confidence, disengage from the those who shred it and put you down.”
—Lucy Gower, founder, director, coach, trainer, and consultant, London, England
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