How to Defeat the Impostor Within and Come out Thriving
If you’re new to the term, impostor syndrome basically means you’re someone who walks around feeling like a fraud, despite having the background, training, and knowledge to back yourself up. Let’s say for example you’re a professionally trained Chef, but maybe you’re a female in male-dominated industry, so you walk into work every day feeling like you’re undeserving of your title. Like you don’t belong.
There are many reasons why you could be a sufferer of impostor syndrome, but many say that it’s a result of being a perfectionist or an over-achiever, therefore you never feel good enough and are always striving for more acceptance.
So despite your education, experience and accomplishments, you still have those feelings of persistent self-doubt. The only way to battle these thoughts is, well, to simply stop thinking like an impostor. That’s the difference between someone who believes themselves to be a fraud and someone who doesn’t – their thinking. It doesn’t mean one is more qualified or intelligent than the other (in some cases, it’s quite the opposite), it just means their thinking is different, and therefore they feel different.
So to overcome those feelings and battle the limiting beliefs in your head, there are certain steps you can take to reroute your thinking from being unsupportive to supportive.
According to impostorsyndrome.com, these are the 10 steps you can practice to help rework your thoughts:
1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.
2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone. It’s up to you to recognize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
3. Be aware of when you should feel fraudulent. A sense of belonging fosters confidence. If you’re the only, or one of a few people in a meeting, classroom, field, or workplace who look or sound like you or are much older or younger, then it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Plus if you’re the first woman, people of color, or person with a disability to achieve something in your world, e.g. first VP, astronaut, judge, supervisor, firefighter, honoree, etc. there’s that added pressure to represent your entire group. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being on the receiving end of social stereotypes about competence and intelligence.
4. Accentuate the positive. The good news is being a perfectionist means you care deeply about the quality of your work. The key is to continue to strive for excellence when it matters most, but don’t persevere over routine tasks and forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
5. Develop a healthy response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for falling short, do what players on the losing sports team do and pinpoint the value from the loss, and move on reminding yourself, “I’ll get ’em next time.”
6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help,” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.
7. Develop a new script. Become consciously aware of the conversation going on in your head when you’re in a situation that triggers your impostor feelings. This is your internal script. Then instead of thinking, “Wait until they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” tell yourself, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers now, but I’m smart enough to find them out.” Instead of looking around the room and thinking, “Oh my God everyone here is brilliant…. and I’m not,” try thinking, “Wow, everyone here is brilliant – I’m really going to learn a lot!”
8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking (and then dismissing) validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn-out phrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it”, still stands: don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.
So the next time you land a major achievement or accomplishment at work, at school, or just in life, remind yourself that you’re deserving and worthy of all that comes your way!