If you often think to yourself, “If they only knew how much I’m faking it,” you have impostor syndrome, and you are not alone. Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you are not qualified to do your job or that your accomplishments are a matter of luck rather than skill. And though “fake it ‘til you make it” is a popular mantra, the constant feeling of inadequacy can be very damaging. Prolonged bouts of impostor syndrome can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. As with most things, the best course of action is to deal with the problem head on.
Getting to Know Your Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome comes in many forms, so the first step to beating it is to figure out what you’re dealing with. Do any of these sound like you?
- Do you think, “If it’s not perfect, it’s garbage?”
- Do you have to work longer hours than everyone else to feel like you’ve earned your place even to the point of neglecting personal aspects of your life?
- Do the words “expert” and “qualified” seem like synonyms to you?
- Are you afraid to ask for help for fear that you’ll be exposed as a fraud because you don’t already have the answer?
There are plenty of ways this syndrome can manifest itself, so take a good look at the kind of self-talk you’re using when you experience doubt.
Deal With It
Once you’ve identified your flavor of impostor syndrome, you can find ways to manage and overcome it.
- Try some free writing. Write (or type) everything that comes to mind. Don’t stop for grammar or spelling or pretty prose. This is just for you. It’s a great way to reveal the root cause of your feelings.
- Emphasize adding value for other people. If your focus is on how you can improve things for your teammates or clients, you’re less likely to obsess over your own perceived shortcomings.
- Say nice things about yourself out loud. Verbalizing your positive attributes, even in private, can have a positive effect on your mental health. So, go ahead and say it. You are awesome!
Different things work for different personalities so keep trying until you find what works for you.
Accentuate the Positive
While, overall, impostor syndrome is negative, there are places to spin it for good.
- ABL= Always Be Learning! Acknowledging that there is always more to learn is a great thing. If you push yourself to improve and evolve, you’ll always be ready for new challenges.
- Stay in competition with yourself. Don’t worry about being competitive with others. Only worry about being better than you were yesterday.
- Check yourself. Yes, positive self-talk is helpful and negative self-talk is harmful, but no one likes an egocentric loudmouth. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, but keep that ego in check.
When it comes to impostor syndrome, knowing that you’re not alone in your self-doubt can be a valuable first step. If you find that your doubts are holding you back, try some of the steps above to help you work through your doubts so you can reach your goals.