How to overcome imposter syndrome

Experiencing doubt is completely normal, but sometimes it can get in the way of your goals. Worrying that you don’t deserve success, even though you can prove your accomplishments and qualifications, can hold you back from reaching your potential. 

Want to make the most of new opportunities and banish your fear of not living up to your expectations? In this blog, we’ll examine imposter syndrome and the steps you can take to overcome it.

 

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in high-achieving women, but anyone can experience it, regardless of gender. It’s characterised by doubting your intellect, achievements, or skills, resulting in you feeling like you don’t belong or deserve to be where you are. 

Perhaps you’ve landed a new job, but you credit your employment offer to the fact that you already had a connection. Or, maybe you performed well on a test, but you put it down to luck. Whatever the situation, imposter syndrome can make you believe that you aren’t worthy or smart enough, even though the facts would say the opposite. It’s common for many high achievers to be plagued with these feelings, but if left uncontrolled they can have a detrimental effect on you.

Whilst imposter syndrome can make you work harder – for example, working long hours to perfect a task and prove yourself – it can quickly lead to burnout. In some cases, it can have significant negative impacts on our wider life, including fears of failure, anxiety, and dissatisfaction in life. It can have a significant effect on our confidence, making us less likely to put ourselves forward for projects and promotions, and leading to missed opportunities. 

Types of imposter syndrome

Research by Dr. Valerie Young reveals that we all experience imposter syndrome differently, with five overarching categories.

Perfectionist

When everything we do has to be just so, we can feel like a failure when something we do isn’t perfect.

Expert

You worry about how much you know, fearing that you will be exposed for not knowing enough or not being as smart as your peers thought you were.

Soloist

Going it alone can be noble, but this can cause you to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness and a source of shame.

Natural genius

When you’re used to being good at everything you turn your hand to, you feel discouraged if you struggle to grasp a skill quickly or easily, leading you to feel inadequate.

Superman/Superwoman

You can see everyone around you managing to handle their multiple tasks or deadlines with no problems, meaning you stress that you’re not doing enough and overwork to keep up appearances.

 

So, how can I overcome imposter syndrome?

Here are three ways you can take steps to start managing your imposter syndrome.

Acknowledge

Understanding how imposter syndrome impacts your self-confidence is the first step to combating these feelings of doubt. Try and identify where these feelings crop up the most – is it during certain scenarios, like when you’re giving presentations? This can help you to pinpoint which type of imposter syndrome you may be feeling and find ways to subdue it.

Seek reassurance 

You’re not alone in feeling like you don’t deserve your success. It’s estimated that around 70% of us have experienced imposter syndrome. Chances are, someone in your office or on your team has felt the same way during their career, so reach out and talk to them about how they dealt with their struggles. You might learn a new way of approaching your tasks, and it always feels better to know that others experience these doubts too. 

Visualise your achievements

Taking the time to remind yourself that your achievements and successes are real, valued and valid can go a long way in boosting your self-confidence. It can also help you to distance yourself from feelings of being a fraud.

Free yourself from feeling like a fraud

Over time, our experiences can chip away at our self-confidence and leave us with crippling self-doubt. If you think you’re being held back and would like to silence your inner critic, our course Visualising a more confident you can help you to regain your self-belief.