We all experience self-doubt at some point in our lives, but for some of us, these feelings can be much more intense and persistent, causing us to feel inadequate and avoid opportunities due to fear of failure. If this sounds like you and you’re trying to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome, we’re sharing 9 ideas to help you below!
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon characterized by feelings of inadequacy and incompetency, and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. People with imposter syndrome are often high achievers, and despite external evidence of their strengths, skills, and accomplishments, they simply cannot internalize their successes. They feel unworthy of their achievements, attributing them to luck, timing, connections with others, etc.
Imposter syndrome affects both men and women, and is often accompanied by feelings of stress, anxiety, low self-confidence, shame, and depression. People with imposter syndrome feel they don’t deserve their successes, and often avoid taking chances and pursuing opportunities due to fear of failure and being ‘found out’.
7 Signs You Have Imposter Syndrome
- You feel like a fraud. You live in constant fear that you will be ‘found out’ – that others will discover that you aren’t as skilled or intelligent as you are pretending to be.
- You can’t internalize your successes. Even though there is strong evidence to suggest that your accomplishments are a direct result of your strengths and skills, you simply don’t believe this. You are convinced your successes are purely due to luck, timing, connections with others, etc.
- You struggle to accept praise. You go to great lengths to prove you aren’t worthy of praise. You insist anyone else could have achieved the same things and offer credit to anyone who helped you, regardless of how small their contributions were.
- You’re a perfectionist. You live in constant fear that you will be ‘found out’ and go to great lengths to avoid failure for fear of being exposed as a fake.
- You’re an ‘over-worker’. Your desire to be perfect coupled with the worry and anxiety you feel that others will find out you’re a fraud cause you to invest more time and energy into things than the average person.
- You avoid trying new things. You are often so paralyzed with the fear of failure that you are unwilling to take chances and pursue new opportunities.
- You focus only on the things you haven’t accomplished. Since you set such high expectations for yourself, it can be difficult to reach your self-imposed goals and milestones, causing you to dwell on all of the things you haven’t done instead focusing on your achievements.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome [9 Tips]
1. Acknowledge your fear
If you want to know how to overcome imposter syndrome, a great first step is to acknowledge your fear and then dig deep to figure out the reason behind it. Leading an important project, accepting a promotion at work, committing to a new exercise program, and becoming a new parent are all examples of life changing events that can cause us to question ourselves and our abilities. The trick is to recognize the reasons behind these fears and work through them.
Quite often, our fears are completely unfounded, but if you legitimately feel you are lacking in a certain skill, take control and put yourself in a positive of power. Read books, enroll in a course, talk to an expert, watch YouTube tutorials, and do whatever else you need to do to feel empowered and ready to take on the challenge ahead of you.
2. Separate feelings from facts
I once read a feel-good post on Facebook about a little girl who came home from school crying one afternoon, and when her mother asked what was wrong, the child explained that one of her classmates had called her ugly. Instead of hugging her and telling her the other child was wrong, the mother simply looked and her daughter and said, ‘WELL, IS IT TRUE?!’
The post was obviously longer and filled with feel-good words, but I loved the way the mother resisted the urge to immediately comfort her child and reminded her to look within herself for self-validation instead. If you want to know how to overcome imposter syndrome, get into the habit of separating fact from feeling to help shut down your self-imposed limiting beliefs.
3. Ditch the notion of perfectionism
While there’s nothing wrong with striving to be your best self in every single thing you do, the need to be PERFECT can lead to excessive worry and anxiety. Perfectionists have a habit of setting unrealistic standards for themselves, and often engage in procrastination and/or avoidance due to fear of failure. Someone who strives for perfection will never feel as though they measure up, which can cause a whole host of challenges, including depression, anxiety disorders, and low self-esteem. If this sounds like you and you’re trying to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome, remember that perfectionism is a form of self-hatred, and aim for progress over perfection.
4. Confide in others
If you feel inadequate or incompetent in a certain area of your life, and live in constant fear that someone will find out that you’re a fraud, it can be extremely freeing to share these thoughts and feelings with someone you can trust, like a co-worker, friend, or spouse. Of course, the idea of exposing your ‘true self’ can feel overwhelming and scary, but it can be a great lesson in helping you figure out if there is any truth to your thoughts and fears. Seeing someone else’s perspective, and hearing their own self-limiting beliefs will help you realize we’re all faking it until we make it!
5. Find a mentor
Connecting with a mentor who has experience in the area in which you’re struggling is another great strategy you can use in your quest to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome. A good mentor will offer you guidance, motivation, and emotional support while also pushing you outside your comfort zone and forcing you to challenge your self-limiting beliefs.
6. Be realistic when setting goals
People who suffer from imposter syndrome often have such high expectations of themselves that it’s next to impossible for them to reach any of their self-imposed goals. The trouble with this way of thinking is that any and all achievements end up being completely discounted – these people only focus on all the ways they failed. If this sounds like you, it’s time for a reality check. While it’s okay to set stretch goals for yourself, do a gut check and ask yourself if your goals are really attainable, or if you’re setting yourself up for failure.
7. Track your progress
Another great tip for those who want to know how to overcome imposter syndrome is to take the time to check in and track your progress. If you have a list of items you need to complete to achieve your goal, this could be as simple as checking items off a list, but quite often, we need to be more deliberate with this exercise. Figure out a system that works for you, and set a reminder in your calendar to force you to review and acknowledge all of your accomplishments on a regular basis.
8. Embrace failure
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, the idea of failing at anything probably makes you want to hyperventilate into a brown paper bag. But instead of seeing failure as the end of the world, try to remember that all of us fail at some point in our lives. In fact, failure actually helps us get rid of our fears, and often provides us with opportunities for growth and achievement.
Sissy Gavrilaki once said, ‘failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy’. Along those same lines, Jack Canfield also said, ‘don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try’. In other words, don’t let the fear of failure get in the way of your goals and dreams, and when something doesn’t go as planned, use it as an opportunity to learn how to do better next time.
9. Prioritize self-care
My final tip for those who are trying to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome is to ensure you are engaging in regular self-care. When we take care of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of our lives, we reduce emotional issues like stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the physical reactions they create, leaving us with more energy and motivation, and making us better able to handle the challenges life throws at us. There are many different types of self-care you can focus on to help you prioritize and take care of your well-being, and you can make them as simple or complex as you want them to be. CLICK HERE for 21 self-care rituals you actually have time for!
If you’re trying to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome, I hope the tips and ideas above prove useful to you. Remember to acknowledge your fear, separate facts from feelings, ditch the notion of perfectionism, and set realistic goals for yourself. Engage with a mentor, learn to embrace fear, prioritize self-care, and remember that most of us are faking it right along with you!