How to Beat Imposter Syndrome
At the beginning of 2022, I was in the midst of job hunting. I had just graduated from university and was finishing up an internship. It was time to level up and officially start my career.
However, as I scoured every job board and applied to every posting I could possibly find, I couldn’t help but feel that I wasn’t ready. I knew my resume was full of skills, abilities and experiences that were hard-earned and valuable. But, when it came down to it, I felt like I was a fraud. Despite all of my accomplishments, I felt like as soon as someone dug deeper into who I am or looked at my work they’d discover that I wasn’t good enough.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
These feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true can be defined as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
The good news about imposter syndrome is that it's a lot more common than you think. The bad news is that it's a lot more common than you think.
Research has found that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome. In fact, many people who are high achievers, including C-suite professionals and celebrities, experience imposter syndrome. So many of us feel like imposters even though we are incredibly competent because we live in a society that is constantly pushing a narrative of perfection.
So, now you might be wondering, “Do I experience imposter syndrome?”
Try answering the following questions:
- Have you ever felt like you were going to be "found out" for not being as smart or talented as everyone assumes you are?
- Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve all the accolades or recognition you’ve received?
- Do you constantly feel anxiety about not being good enough?
- Are you constantly worrying that your romantic partner will break things off because they will discover that you’re not good enough?
- Have you ever felt like everyone around you is more capable than you?
If any of these questions strike a chord with you, you have most likely experienced (or, are experiencing) imposter syndrome.
The Impact of Imposter Syndrome
Maybe you're a writer, and you don't believe that you have what it takes to write a novel. Maybe you're an engineer, and you're worried your colleagues will discover that you have no idea what you're doing. Or maybe you're applying for a new job, and the anxious thought keeps creeping into your head: "What if they realize I'm not qualified?"
Here's the thing: whatever we believe about ourselves becomes our reality. Our thoughts shape our experience of the world—and if we're constantly focusing on negative thoughts about ourselves, then we can only expect to see negative results.
When you believe that you’re not good enough, it feeds into a cycle of fear, which ultimately holds you back from pursuing what you want.
Conclusion: the number one thing that can sabotage your life is your thinking.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
But your imposter doesn’t have to take the driver's seat and determine the course of your journey. In fact, you can take back control of the wheel so you can get to your desired destination.
So, how can you kick your imposter to the back seat?
I suggest getting out a pen and paper and tackle the tips below.
#1 Acknowledge That Imposter Syndrome Is a Feeling (& Use It to Your Advantage)
Our feelings are great indicators of where we are focusing our attention to. When you are experiencing fear and a sense of inadequacy, it’s important to sit with those feelings and try to dig into the thinking that’s driving these emotions. Perhaps you are thinking that you’re undeserving of praise because you just got “lucky”, or that you won’t ever move up in the corporate ladder because everyone else is better than you. Your feelings can allow you to discover where your focus is.
#2 Redirect Your Focus
As I mentioned before, when you buy-in to what your imposter is telling you, it can lead to inaction, holding you back from getting what you want. So, what can you do in these moments where imposter syndrome is taking control? Redirect your focus.
Start by identifying the areas in which you think you fall short. Then try to come up with evidence of your abilities in those areas. For instance, if you feel like your work isn't good enough, look at some of your projects and try to figure out what makes them good. Did someone tell you they liked a particular aspect of your work? Try to write down exactly what they said—it might help put things into perspective.
Additionally, start writing an ongoing master list of everything you have accomplished and the skills you have developed. By crafting a tangible list, it can allow you to quickly redirect your focus to everything that makes you unique, special, talented, and capable.
#3 Find an External Observer
Imposter syndrome is a beast that can be challenging to defeat. However, by reaching out for support, it gives you extra armour that can help you in your quest.
Reaching out to people in your support system like your friends, family members, coaches, mentors, or therapists can help paint a more accurate picture of your true skills and capabilities. An external perspective can validate that your thoughts are fiction and also allow you to see that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Most likely, people in your network have come face-to-face with this beast too and have valuable insights on how they also cope with it.
#4 Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway
The imposter that lives inside of us may voice its thoughts every now and then. When these fears of failure or not being good enough come to a surface, we sometimes hesitate to take action. So how can we quiet this voice and decide to just do it regardless of our fears?
It’s essential to realize that you are more powerful than your imposter. You have control over what you let your mind focus on—so choose to focus on the things that bring value to your life, not tear it down (remember tip #2?).
When you decide to take action despite what your imposter has to say, it can be scary at first.
But the more you continue to act regardless of what it has to say, the quieter that imposter will become. Eventually, it will be like a fading whisper at the back of your mind instead of a booming voice at the front.
A Final Note
If I can end this article on a final note, it’s this: you’re not alone in feeling like you’re not good enough. Even though it might feel like everyone else has it together, most of us don't. We're all just trying our best to cope with the constant fear that we're going to be found out for the frauds we are. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like an imposter - in fact, it’s simply a feeling that comes from being human. No one is immune to feeling this way.
However, it’s up to us to choose what we believe to be true about ourselves and what kind of lives we want to lead.
Written by Guest Author, Hailey Rodgers