Have you ever felt like you are inadequate or don’t belong in your given position – whether in the classroom or the workplace – despite all your skills and accomplishments? This experience of feeling like a fraud is often termed “imposter syndrome”. If you have ever felt this way, you’ll know that it can bring you down and is associated with feelings of anxiety and depression. Imposter syndrome can also cause you to undermine your performance and abilities, and potentially lead to making irrational career decisions.
If you are experiencing imposterism, it’s important to find effective coping strategies that will help you to reassess your own value objectively. Here are some ideas on how to deal with imposter syndrome:
- Identify that you have imposter syndrome. Some of the common ways of thinking associated with imposter syndrome include feeling like you “got lucky” when you actually prepared well and worked hard. Or, finding it hard to accept praise. Or, you may be convinced that you are not enough, despite what others say about you. If your own successes or the praise that you get from others makes you uncomfortable, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome.
- Separate the facts from the feelings. Once you have identified that you may have imposter syndrome, try to separate that facts from the feelings. You are an A+ student or a high-performing manager. Reflect on these achievements and the praise that you receive. If need be, write them out or bounce the list off someone you trust. Get to place where you know that your feelings of imposterism are not founded in fact.
- Spot any true weaknesses. If you come across a true area of weakness, work on it and find ways to plug those gaps. Once you smoothen out any weaknesses, you’ll have more faith in your strengths and achievements.
- Be kind to yourself. First, catch yourself whenever you have a negative thought, such as “I just got lucky”. Challenge that thought by asking yourself “What steps did I take to get to this point?” Answer your own question with affirmations in the form of focused, positive thoughts such as “I worked hard” or “I am good at this”. Aim to eventually transform the negative thoughts into constructive ones that boost your self-esteem.
- Talk it out. Talk about your thoughts with a mentor, a colleague or a supervisor who may be able to give you perspective that you may be missing at this time. Hearing about our abilities from an objective point of view can help us to re-affirm our belief in ourselves. Talking to someone else may also help you to come up with ways to deal with imposter syndrome at the workplace or school.
In the end, if you compulsively doubt your successes, it may help to remember that these feelings are common. Everyone has a moment of doubt, every once in a while. But if you find yourself underperforming or struggling with anxiety or depression as a result of your negative thoughts, you might consider seeking professional help.