How you can learn to overcome the imposter syndrome

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Imposter syndrome affects many of us, so how can you learn to overcome it? Read these daily tips and habits

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What is the imposter syndrome anyways? The imposter syndrome is very often a defence mechanism against failure and disappointment.

The official definition outlines the impostor syndrome as a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and fear they are going to be exposed as a fraud. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. They found it was particularly high among successful women.

70% of women and just over 50% of men have had imposter syndrome, a constant, nagging sense of self-doubt, insecurity and the fear that others think we’re not good enough to be doing what we’re doing.

I recommend you listen to this Deliciously Ella podcast with clinical psychologist Dr Jessamy Hibberd about how to get comfortable being uncomfortable and the effects of self-doubt.

Ask for help 

Imposter syndrome can be really tough and can hold us back in our careers. Career Coach Ciara Spillane from Positive Prospects points out how some signs you have imposter syndrome are feeling that any success is linked to luck and not your achievements and feeling self-doubt about the future. 

“My main tip is to talk to your work friends about it. By sharing your feelings you will most likely realise that you are not alone and many others feel the same. I previously worked in Google and it was so common that there was an internal group people that you could join where people wondered how they got hired at all!”

Don’t forget to have self-compassion, continues Ciara.

Imagine that you are talking to your close friend – how would they advise you? Would they tell you how competent you are and remind you of all your successes? I’m sure they would, so next time talk to yourself as your close friend would.

Ciara spillane
Time to praise yourself

Write down all of your achievements so you can see just how far you’ve come – and the next time someone gives you a compliment graciously take the praise and say ‘thank you’.

Online business manager Charlotte mentions her own experience with imposter syndrome. She used to walk around wearing a ‘professional’ mask, trying to emulate others in the industry, speaking how they spoke, following their formula for success.

“I realised imposter syndrome for me was about trying to prove myself and gain acceptance from others. I had tied my performance at work, my title, my accolades as meaning something about my ‘worth’ and ‘value’ as a person. As though my ‘worth’ needed to be earnt, not something I was born with”

The more she learned about herself, values and unique definition of success, the less performative and ‘imposter’ she felt. Below are some of the tips from Charlotte when struggling to find confidence in herself: 

  • When I have feelings of imposter syndrome creep back in, I try to connect to my deeper mission in business, my ‘why’ and tell myself, this is not about ‘me’ I am here to be of service. 
  • I remind myself that everyone has a unique gift to bring to the world including ME.  By practising courage and speaking up authentically, I may just give permission/ encourage others to do so too. And that can only be a good thing. 


Cultivate a learner’s mindset

Cultivating a learner’s mindset is what truly can make a difference. When looking at yourself as a student who does not have all the answers. You’re not trying to fake a persona or maintain a certain image — instead, you’re motivated by curiosity.

Ben Austin, CEO and Founder at multi-award-winning digital marketing agency Absolute Digital Media reminds us that it’s just as important to share your failures as your wins.

“Show people what you are doing and the process you’re taking to get there. By doing so, you’ll build far more genuine connections with those who are willing to help you rather than holding onto perfectionism”

Don’t let the imposter syndrome affect your life is to gain experience. Don’t be afraid to share your hard-worked professional advice with others

Beware of your dreams

This may sound like a very counter-productive tip but bear with me on this.  There’s a sort of emotional whiplash that happens when your big dream comes true. You believed that the thing you wanted was going to satisfy you completely, solve your problems, or make you truly happy.

When it doesn’t, the resulting sense of loss can send you grasping for something else to fill the void. If that thing doesn’t live up to your expectations, either, and the cycle continues. The positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar named this feeling “arrival fallacy.”

A great way to fix this is to set multiple goals that allow you to stretch and grow. Having only one big dream puts a lot of pressure on us and the image we have of ourselves and can instil doubt in yourself.

What if, instead of imposter syndrome, what you truly have is self-doubt? Asks Amelia, founder of the personal branding agency Klowt, you’re self-sabotaging. 

Everyone has self-doubt, it’s part of being human. I have the phrase imposter syndrome because it implies that it’s something wrong with it. Like you’ve got a syndrome. It’s like a medical condition – the most powerful thing you can do to overcome self-doubt is to be your OWN biggest fan. Cheer for your damn self and never apologise for it.

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