career development

How to overcome imposter syndrome

How to overcome imposter syndrome

WORK180
WORK180Mar 4, 2020

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Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve your successes, that they’re the result of a lucky hand and you’ll soon be exposed as a fraud? As a result, you might play down your accomplishments. Or perhaps you feel like you’re not smart, talented or experienced enough to deserve a certain job, promotion or seat at the table? These nagging worries and unproductive thoughts are symptomatic with the psychological phenomenon known as imposter syndrome – a term coined by two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, in 1978. And if you’ve experienced the phenomenon, you’re in good company. According to a recent study, 66% of women in the UK have suffered from imposter syndrome within the past 12 months, along with 56% of men. While women are more susceptible, regardless of gender, the psychological devil on our shoulders can majorly interfere with career progression. Not to mention, it’s also a drag on productivity and the economy. So how do you combat imposter syndrome? Here’s six tips:

1. Talk to someone you trust

By its very nature, impostor syndrome can feel incredibly isolating. But voicing your feelings might help you work through your thoughts and emotions. And chances are there is someone around you feeling the exact same way.

In fact, even some of the world’s most successful women have found themselves questioning their accomplishments. Speaking to the Harvard graduating class of 2015, Natalie Portman shared how she never felt like she deserved to be at the university during her time there.

“Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999,” she said. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

2. Don’t aim for perfection

Imposter syndrome is notoriously the domain of the high achiever. This is because perfectionists set much higher standards for themselves, and when they don’t achieve those heights, the fall is greater and the self-doubt that follows can be more acute.

If you identify as a perfectionist, experts say that overcoming imposter syndrome requires self-acceptance. Try to create more realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that you don’t have to attain perfection to be worthy of your success.

3. Think rationally

Imposter syndrome is completely irrational so counteract it by using your rational mind. Rather than letting your self-doubts manifest, think about them rationally. Are your thoughts justified?

A good approach is to make a list of all your accomplishments and refer back to it – seeing your achievements written down might help you acknowledge the irrationality of your thoughts. If you’ve been successful in your career, logically it’s because you’re good at your job, not luck.

4. Stop listening to the inner critic

Or you can just stop listening to inner critic, as Michelle Obama did.

As a young woman, the Former First Lady of the United States, has shared that she used to lie awake at night asking herself: Am I too loud? Too much? Dreaming too big?

“Eventually, I just got tired of always worrying what everyone else thought of me,” she said. “So I decided not to listen.

“I decided to put my head down and let my work speak for itself. I felt like I had something to prove because of the colour of my skin and the shape of my body, but I had to get out of my own way.”

5. Lean into the imposter

Imposter syndrome is common. For some it works to acknowledge its presence and embrace the imposter. Rather than saying no to opportunities out of fear of failure, say yes. Don’t give yourself time to think – embrace the uncomfortableness and see it as a learning opportunity, rather than a risk of being exposed as a fraud.

6. Replace the fear with kindness

Finally, be kind to yourself. Forgive your failings, accept praise and don’t dwell on dropping one of the many balls you’re juggling. Instead of comparing yourself to others or focussing on what you haven’t done, focus on what you’ve personally achieved. Celebrate the daily wins and maybe soon you’ll start to feel every bit deserving of your success.


About the author

WORK180

WORK180

WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.


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