Girl hiding her face due to feeling like an imposter

6 Helpful Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Do you secretly live in fear of others finding out that you are not as accomplished, smart or creative as they might think?

Then you might be experiencing something known as imposter syndrome.

How can you be sure? Here are some ways it might be showing up in your life.

  • When you are successful, or things are working in your favour, you attribute it to luck or being in the right place at the right time.
  • If someone comes to you for advice or help you initially think, it must be a mistake and you doubt yourself, fearing you will give them the wrong information.
  • Each time you submit a project or have to present on a topic, you quietly think this is going to be the occasion when others see how hopeless you really are.
  • When people acknowledge you for your effort or achievements, you attribute it to being a fluke and doubt that you could do it again.
  • You can easily recall the incidents where you have failed to meet your high standards; however, find it difficult to remember when you did perform something well.
  • When someone compliments you, you tend to brush it off because you don’t believe you deserve it.
  • Your initial thoughts about working on a project, going for an interview or sitting an exam are racked with the fear of you failing, even though you generally ace it when the results come back.
  • You often compare yourself to your co-workers, fellow students or friends on social media believing they are more intelligent, smarter or more together than you are.

If you think you are the only one who feels like this, you might be surprised to know that according to research, an estimated 70% of people experience these feelings at some point in their lives.

So what is imposter syndrome?

It’s a form of self-doubt found in high achievers. Unable to internalise one’s success, people struggling with imposter syndrome attribute their achievements to external sources such as luck or right timing even though there is good evidence to suggest otherwise. Research has found that it goes hand in hand with perfectionism and it is more common with people starting new endeavours.

What to do when you don’t believe you measure up.

  1. Share your feelings in a safe environment. Speaking with a coach or mentor allows you to normalise your fears. As you now are aware, its more common than you first thought, so let yourself get the necessary support and comfort knowing you are not alone in this.
  2. Keep a list of previous successes. Write down your accomplishments and look at it daily, remembering the experience and letting the feelings of the achievement set in.
  3. Become aware of your thoughts. That is listening to or observing your thoughts without engaging and believing them, automatically. You can ask yourself – “Are these thoughts really true and/or are these thoughts helping me or hindering me?” and then “what am I making this mean?. What is a more empowering or realistic explanation?” If so many people are feeling this way, it might be helpful to remember; there is no difference in competency between you and your co-workers, fellow students or peer group except the way they respond to the challenges.
  4. Change your perspective about mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up for making a mistake, think of it as a way of improving. The truth is as human; we are continually learning and often have to do things a few times before we can be satisfied with the results. So take the perspective that mistakes are not the end but a challenge to improve or find a new way of achieving your goals.
  5. Identify the triggers, which situations make you fearful. You might notice that it doesn’t cross all areas of your life but in the regions that you are relatively new in or are striving to prove your worth in something. Getting clarity will help you focus your attention to where it is needed.
  6. Reframe your understanding of constructive criticism. Distance yourself from the criticism and understand its not about you as a person, it’s about your behaviour or performance in what you are undertaking. You can upgrade your skills or change your behaviour with conscious effort and practice. So look at it as something that can enhance your performance and move you in the direction you want to go.

It is reasonable to have occasions of doubt, especially when we are in unfamiliar territory. However, it shouldn’t stop you from living the life you want to live and doing the things you desire.

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