Raise your hand if you ever downplay your achievements? How about if you ever feel like you’re a fraud or a failure? Or like you don’t know anything or everyone in your field is lightyears ahead of you? Or that your intelligence, knowledge or accomplishments are insignificant? How about questioning your skills?
Oh good, I’m not alone.
If you raised your hand, you’ve just described impostor syndrome. It’s a thing.
Impostor Syndrome: a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to see their own accomplishments, dismissing them as luck, timing or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
See, we’re not imagining it. Believe it or not, 70 percent of people experience impostor syndrome. It’s highly common in women, even those incredibly successful ones we all admire – Tina Fey, Troian Bellisario, Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou.
Now that we have a name for that terrible feeling, how do we overcome the feeling that we’re just complete frauds?
Recognize that it exists.
Remember all those monsters under our beds and things we feared as a kid? Everything was better once we had a name attached to it and could prove that it wasn’t as bad as we thought. Some adult problems work in the same way. It scares you, makes you feel terrible, you name it, you conquer it, it holds no power over you.
We’ve named this monster – imposter syndrome – and with that, we’ve made the first step towards conquering it.
Don’t attribute your success to luck.
Luck doesn’t exist, and certainly not in the professional world. Good things come to those who hustle. Passing off your good work as luck is selling yourself way short. Be proud of what you’ve done and where you’re going. Don’t give Lady Luck any undeserved praise.
Banish the negative words.
If positive thinking can transform your attitude about even the most mundane things, why wouldn’t you want to send all sorts of positive energy your own way. Banish any and all negative words, phases, comments and thinking from your every day vocabulary, especially when talking about your professional accomplishments.
Make a list of what you don’t know but want to.
Making a list of what you don’t know may seem like an exercise in self-doubt, but knowing what you don’t know is a strength. What are things you want to know? Things you should know? Things you need to brush up on? Once you’ve got your list together, hit the ground running and learn.
Learn to graciously accept compliments.
If someone tells you that you did a great job or congratulates you on an accomplishment, there’s no reason you shouldn’t say “thanks!” and give yourself a tiny pat on the back. For some reason, though, we ladies seem to try to deny every compliment sent our way. Why, I have no idea, but we do, and it’s bad for two reasons. One: it’s quite rude. You’re basically telling the compliment payer that they’re wrong, or have bad judgement or horrible taste. Two: you’re undercutting your own confidence. It’s ok to agree that you’ve done a good job or that you’ve accomplished something good. It’s better than ok – you should know your own worth!
Stop seeing stumbling as failure.
You don’t have to know everything. A little stumbling is a natural part of growing and learning. Instead of seeing each stumble and obstacle as further proof of your failure and inadequacies, look at them as a stepping stone. The only way to improve and grow is to make a few mistakes.
Focus on the present.
I don’t know about you, but 90% of my problems and anxieties could be solved by simply focusing on the here-and-now. Since we can’t change what we’ve already done and we can’t predict the future and the only thing we do have control over is what we do right then, the best thing we can do is let go of the what-ifs and should-haves.
Hang around with the smart kids.
Seems like it would be a bit counter-intuitive, right? Surround yourself with smart people to make you feel like less of an impostor? Think about it – if you spend your days with intelligent people, you just might pick up a few things you didn’t know before.
Realize that it’s ok to need help.
No one has it together all the time and if someone tells you they do, they’re lying. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s acknowledging that you can’t do everything. It’s not something to be ashamed of, even though there is this stigma attached to admitting that you’re not Superman. No one’s perfect.
And if all else fails – fake it til you make it! But we’ll talk about that later 😉