Nearly 70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome. And it is particularly common among women and people from minority populations – so how can we overcome it?
What is imposter syndrome?
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts”
Bertrand Russell – Philosopher
The term was defined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they didn’t deserve the success that they had. They felt like an imposter by not being qualified and/or capable of performing efficiently in that role.
Building up self-confidence and self-esteem can help, however the source of feeling like an imposter could come more from the way we are conditioned to think about how things are supposed to be.
If you feel that you don’t “look like” the person who should do that role, you are more likely to feel like an imposter. It is a real feeling based on shared perceptions that we have about what something or someone is “supposed” to look like – it can come from our early conditioning, our assumptions and our biases.
Watch this TED talk to learn more about Imposter Syndrome:
3 Ways to Challenge Imposter Syndrome
Know how you respond to stress
People can respond to the anxiety of imposter syndrome in one of two ways: either through striving for perfectionism by overworking; or by taking avoiding action to keep themselves safe, rarely speaking up or seeking out new challenges.
Get a sense of how you respond to stress. Are you an over-worker or an avoider? If you over-work, learn to be more assertive and state what your needs are rather than saying yes to everything. If you are an avoider and you want to start voicing your opinion more, make a promise to yourself to speak up in the first 15 minutes of a meeting so that you short-circuit your natural tendency to hold back.
Put your emotions into words
Learning to cope with difficult emotions like self-doubt will help you increase your mental strength. Studies show that people who ignore negative emotions experience more distress and can engage in destructive behaviours.
Identifying and labelling feelings will combat the stressful feelings that arise with impostor syndrome. Expand your emotional vocabulary so that you can better deal with anxiety and worry when it arises. Simply labelling your inner experience is a powerful way to keep insecurity from ruling you.
Listen to your inner dialogue & change it!
We can be our own worst critic, putting ourselves down, not acknowledging our accomplishments and criticising what we are capable of doing.
For one week, try writing down your thoughts and noting your inner dialogue. How are you judging yourself? Are you putting yourself down internally?
Try to start using positive words and positive-yet-realistic phrases. It’s not easy to admit out loud that you feel insecure, so begin by changing the words, and the mental approach will follow.
Don’t forget that many smart, successful and competent people feel like imposters in their jobs. The most limiting part of imposter syndrome is that it can curtail our courage to go after new opportunities, explore new interests or put ourselves forward for new exciting opportunities.
Try implementing the 3 tips above to start you on the path to conquering imposter syndrome and reaching your full potential.