Do you ever feel like you’re faking it? You’re playing pretend in a world of people who know what they’re doing. You’re the odd one out, playing along until someone figures out you’re an imposter. You might find yourself wondering if you have the right qualifications or are living well enough. This feeling, known as imposter syndrome, is more common than you might think. Despite how isolating this syndrome feels, you’re not alone! Imposter syndrome can have up to an 82% prevalence rate, and affect both men and women across all ages.
According to psychologists, imposter syndrome means we struggle to attribute our accomplishments to our own competence. Instead, we might believe our successes are based on luck or help from others. As a consequence, we fear being exposed for the fraud we really are and worry that we can’t live up to the expectations implied by our achievements. However, while we might attribute our success to external factors, we actually attribute our failures to internal factors, such as lack of ability or knowledge. This can prevent us from living up to our full potential, so it’s important that we learn how to overcome it.
Fact Check Your Negative Thoughts
You can start by mindfully observing those negative thoughts that creep into your mind. Our thoughts aren’t facts so it’s important to challenge them. You might have negative thoughts about yourself and your ability to succeed. Or, you might hold expectations about what success should look like and feel you can’t attain that kind of success. Challenge those thoughts and expectations! What real tangible proof do you have that you can’t achieve? Are there others out there who have achieved what you want? Find examples that prove what you want is possible, don’t sell yourself short.
Acknowledge Your Accomplishments
Often, imposter syndrome is actually triggered by some kind of success or achievement. You might feel unworthy, as if you’re being praised for something that happened due to pure luck. However, this is the perfect time to acknowledge that accomplishment and what led to that point. You might find other accomplishments provided you with skills to achieve this success. Was there a time when you doubted yourself as you do now and still achieved? The more often you keep track of, and reflect on achievements, the easier it will be in future to accept success and attribute it to your own efforts and skills. Likewise, this will make it easier to fact check those negative thoughts. In a similar way, it’s good to note any good feedback or praise you receive from work, friends or family to help when feelings of self-doubt hit.
Stop Comparing, Start Connecting
Naturally, a lot of the self-doubt that evolves into imposter syndrome stems from comparing ourselves to others. Someone else is more knowledgeable, more confident, more productive. Social media puts comparison at our fingertips, we’re able to see how people operate outside of work and school. It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up. Here, again, it’s important to challenge those negative thought patterns. Equally, it’s important to find a way to replace the comparison with connection. In this paper, it was suggested that finding a friend and sharing your story with others was a useful way to overcome feelings of isolation that arise with imposter syndrome.
Similarly, seeking out mentors is another way to combat imposter syndrome, particularly when pursuing a new profession. This suggestion has been echoed for academic and medical professions. Additionally, mentorship can be an excellent source of support when navigating under-representation in a professional or educational environment. Institutionalised discrimination and environments that lack diversity can create a sense of isolation that makes imposter syndrome more likely. One way of seeking out mentors beyond your current social circle is to attend professional development conferences or webinars. Likewise, such development can improve your confidence alongside expanding your network.
So, talk to your friends and family, connect with people who understand, even those people who seem to have it all together are likely to feel this way. It’s actually more common for high-achievers and perfectionists to experience imposter syndrome!
Be Kind to Yourself
Truth is, we are our own harshest critics. It’s easy to forget that making mistakes is okay. You don’t need to be perfect at everything, you’ll learn and perform better by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You can overcome this by adopting a beginners mindset, which can reduce the pressure of feeling like you need to live up to predetermined standards and instead encourage you to embrace the potential possibilities.
You can also reassure yourself by setting short-term goals that align with your values, as suggested in the paper above. It can bring a small sense of accomplishment and highlight how you attain success overtime, giving that tangible proof to challenge your thoughts. This is similar to collecting your accomplishments but focuses on small achievements in all areas of life. It’s important to remember success is personal to you. You can find value outside of the area of life where you feel like an imposter.