How To Beat Impostor Syndrome, Because You Deserve To Feel Unapologetic About Your Success
Have you ever felt like a fraud? Unless you're making like Mike Ross in Suits and pretending to be a Harvard-educator lawyer at a fancy firm, chances are you're not. But many people still feel like one, in a phenomenon called imposter syndrome. So what is it and how do you beat imposter syndrome?
If you feel like you haven't earned your achievements, that you don't belong in your work place, and that you're seconds away from being rumbled at all times, you're most likely experiencing this phenomenon. The term was coined by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, to describe low expectations of success or a feeling of intellectual fraudulence and it's a real problem.
Impostor syndrome is the little voice in your head that sounds strangely like the meanest mean girl at school, whispering that you're not capable enough, that they could have hired someone better, and that all your colleagues are complaining about you when you're making a cup of tea in the kitchen.
It's that niggling sense of dread that has you reading and rereading emails "just in case," or staying up till silly o'clock preparing for a presentation that you're more than qualified to give. But impostor syndrome isn't just a uncomfortable, it can be paralysing. When you doubt your abilities, it's easy to imagine how that might put you off applying for a job or asking for a promotion. And it can stop you in your tracks in small ways too, it might deter you from speaking up in a meeting, because you're worried about sounding stupid, or pointing out an error to your manager because surely you're the one who's got it wrong?
If this all sounds rather familiar, you're not alone. As reported by The Independent, a study by career agency Amazing If found that almost a third of millennials in the UK struggle with impostor syndrome. If you're one of that number, then don't fear and don't doubt, you're almost certainly more deserving of your successes than you think, and there a lots of small ways I've found useful to help boost my confidence.
1. Dwell On Praise
If you're the kind of person who is regularly kept up at night remembering that time you said "you too" when the waitress asked said "enjoy your meal", then it might help to counter your inner critic by giving your successes as much airtime as you give your so-called failures. If you ever find yourself keeping your achievements to yourself out of fear of sounding boasty, then don't. If you would tell your friends, family or partner about you messing up at work, then tell them about the time you saved the day too. By giving too much attention to things that don't work out, you can fool yourself into thinking you're doing a much worse job than you really are. Making sure you shout your successes from the rooftops (or at least in the group chat) should help redress the balance.
2. Know You're In Good Company
We already know that plenty of people experience from impostor syndrome, but what if I told you some seriously successful people have been plagued by self-doubt too? Meryl Streep, who has been nominated for more Oscars than any other actor, once said: “You think, 'Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?' And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” World famous poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once wrote: “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody.” Lawyer and former first lady Michelle Obama once admitted she used to worry: “Am I too loud? Too much? Dreaming too big?” The moral of the story is: don't let your doubts stand in the way of your dreams, unleash your inner Meryl, Maya, and Michelle, and take over the world.
3. Don't Think, Do
When something goes wrong — you mess up at work, you don't get the result you were expecting, or you get an application rejected — it can kick off a spiral of self-doubt that's like quicksand. It can be stifling and near impossible to escape once you're up to your neck in it. So the next time you feel uncertainty start to swirl, take immediate action. It could be ticking off three small things on your to-do list, writing a few reminders of all the things you have achieved that day (could be as simple as washing your hair), or throwing yourself headfirst into the next application. Just don't follow the doubts down quicksand cul-de-sac.
4. Reread Your CV
If impostor syndrome causes you to doubt your credentials then give yourself regular reminders of what they are. While reading your CV might sound a little cringe, it's most likely the best record of your achievements you have. Scanning over proof of your previous successes and professional competency, will remind you of what you're capable of - i.e. a lot.
5. Answer Back
When that critical voice in your brain starts up again, don't let it go unchallenged. Notice when you're hardest on yourself, is there something in particular that triggers your self doubt? And importantly, argue back. If the voice is telling you you aren't good enough, hit it with a firm "Well actually I did [list of achievements] today, so take that". You'll soon find that not only does the voice get quieter and quieter, you'll feel more assured of your abilities, because you were reminding yourself of them the whole time.
So now the next time you hear that little voice, get that niggly feeling or see that big wave of doubt coming towards you, remember you got yourself to where you are now. Luck didn't do that, help didn't do that. Your talent, your skills, your hard work, your dedication. And those same attributes will help you move even more mountains, all you've got to do is let them.