Impostor Syndrome: What It Is and How to Overcome It

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Impostor Syndrome has become a widely recognised psychological phenomenon in recent times — and it seems to be on the rise. It is characterised as experiencing persistent feelings of being a ‘fraud’, especially in the workplace, along with feelings of inadequacy or being unworthy of success.

Although women are statistically more likely to be affected by Impostor Syndrome, it can strike anyone, at any point in their career. Perhaps ironically, ‘Impostor Syndrome’ is thought to especially affect high achievers and those paving their own way in a new career; times when self-belief is arguably more important than ever.

As Impostor Syndrome chiefly stems from negative thought patterns, it can quickly become a deeply ingrained — and harmful — mental habit. But the good news is, like all habits, it can be broken!

Why Combat Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome can be stressful, uncomfortable, and counterproductive in the immediate moment — but it can also have more lasting effects.

Not only are we more likely to underperform during the times when we experience feelings of inadequacy, but it can also affect our motivation in the long-term.

Feeling like we lack the ability to improve, that we have not achieved enough, or that we are somehow unworthy of success, can hinder our professional and emotional growth. We are less likely to invest time in ourselves or our endeavours, or to take advantage of exciting opportunities.

Impostor Syndrome essentially means that we are subtly sabotaging ourselves.

Overcoming the negative thought processes and replacing them with a positive, supportive, and more realistic outlook, is a great investment in ourselves and our career. It may also mean that we are happier and more content in our personal lives, as well as the workplace.

How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome in 7 Steps

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome may not be possible overnight. Like forging or breaking any habit, it takes continual efforts and a patient approach. But the results will be worth it.

Releasing yourself from negative, limiting mental thought patterns can be key to your career growth — and is equally important for mental wellbeing.

1: Acknowledge & Analyse the Feelings

If you think you may be experiencing Impostor Syndrome, acknowledge that you are feeling this way. Accepting the feelings without immediately trying to repress or run from them, allows you to analyse them more effectively.

Can you identify where this feeling may be coming from? Are you feeling unqualified, or unsupported, or perhaps you’re dealing with another issue? Identifying where you think the feelings may be originating, can help you to come up with a tailored solution.

For example, if it simply feels like a lack of confidence, consider ways to boost your belief in yourself, such as with more training or through building a better support network. If it is coming from deep-rooted low self-esteem, now might be the time to address that with therapy or dialogue.

Acknowledge your feelings of Impostor Syndrome honestly; try to identify what might be causing them, and then work positively to improve your mindset — which the following steps can help you achieve.

2: Track Your Progress and Celebrate Success

If you have goals you are working towards in the future, it can be easy to lose sight of the daily progress you’re making. Be sure to track — and celebrate — the steps you’re taking towards achieving your goals and ambitions.

These could be either a big milestone that you reach, or a single small act in a day that takes you a tiny bit closer to your goal. However big or small your successes, track, review, and celebrate them regularly!

3: Adopt a Growth Mindset

Emphasise constant progress, not perfection. Impostor Syndrome and perfectionism are considered to be closely linked — and can be equally destructive.

With every setback, consider how you can learn and grow. Treat evaluations and feedback as opportunities to improve.

Studies show that those who consider themselves to be constant learners rather than ‘the finished product’ are not only more likely to achieve their goals, they are more likely to be happy too.

A ‘growth mindset’ specifically helps with Impostor Syndrome, as you are not claiming to be the finished product. This can help to undermine any feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.

4: Build Your Support Network

Impostor Syndrome can feel like a secret shame. It can be lonely and isolating, and harder than ever to avert, if facing alone. To combat this, consider building a support network not only of family and friends, but also like-minded individuals.

These can be people from your worklife, or those with similar hobbies or passions who may be experiencing comparable challenges and states of mind. By supporting each other, you can feel less like a fraud and more like a valued member of the community.

Communicate honestly and openly with those around you, and ask for support when you need it. This will forge stronger connections — both personally and professionally — and help to banish the isolation and negativity associated with Impostor Syndrome.

Working in teams, giving credit to others, and emphasising collaboration will all help, too.

5: Separate Facts from Feelings

Impostor Syndrome can operate in subtle ways, sometimes affecting us almost subconsciously. It is more important than ever when experiencing feelings of Impostor Syndrome, to separate facts from feelings.

For example, feeling negative or insecure one day does not factually mean that you are inadequate, or have not achieved enough, while feeling like someone is ahead of you, does not factually mean that you are less worthy or less important than they are.

Try to engage with feelings of Impostor Syndrome in a clear and logical way. Negative feelings are subjective, and will pass if you let them. Rely on the facts and try to build on them positively.

6: Emphasise Positive Self-Talk

Talk to yourself internally in the same way as you would a friend. Reassure yourself that having a bad day, receiving negative feedback, or experiencing a setback, is not the end of the world. Think of all you have achieved, and remind yourself of your resilience and of everything good in your life.

Don’t be afraid to rest, regroup, and come back fresh — just as you might encourage a friend or family member to do. We are often very careful to use positive and supportive words for our friends and family, so why don’t we do the same for ourselves?

Emphasising a positive, self-supporting internal dialogue is crucial to overcoming Impostor Syndrome.

7: Take Action

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome has a lot to do with positive mental habits, but it can be a practical process too. If you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy or a lack of confidence, acknowledge them patiently, and then take action!

Perhaps you could hone your skills with extra training, embark on a new project, or seek out collaborators for a future venture?

Taking action in a variety of ways can make us feel powerful, proactive, and in charge of our own success — all vital for keeping feelings of Impostor Syndrome at bay.

Written by Jessica Sinyard for New Frontiers Marketing

This article was featured in the latest edition of Quay Magazine! Use this link to download your FREE copy:

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