Ever feel like you’re being followed by an uninvited guest at work that shows up at the most inconvenient times, casting a shadow over your accomplishments and successes? That, my friends, is what psychologists describe as Imposter Syndrome – a sneaky little feeling of self-doubt and insecurity, pretending to be a part of us even when we’re absolutely nailing it.
Imposter Syndrome, a term coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is estimated to affect 70% of individuals at some point in their life (1). Particularly among women in senior or leadership roles, these debilitating feelings can hinder progress, fuel burnout, and stall careers.
However, there are a number of research-backed strategies that can help overcome this “imposter” feeling for good. Today I’m going to delve into the heart of the problem and its solutions, so you can overcome imposter syndrome once and for all.
Firstly, we need to understand what feeds this syndrome. Research has indicated several triggers might be to blame, such as new tasks, high expectations, or when your performance is being evaluated (2). It’s crucial to acknowledge that Imposter Syndrome is not about a lack of competence, but about an inability to internalise and accept your own success. The good news? This is a skill we can all adopt.
So, are you ready to kick imposter syndrome to the curb? Buckle up, we’ve got the road map ready – combining the powerful tools of self-reflection, cognitive restructuring, and a cheering squad!
A self-reflective practice is an excellent starting point to moving past the pesky feelings of imposter syndrome. Truly understanding – and believing – your own worth and achievements without external validation can be a major game-changer. As renowned psychologist Dr. Valerie Young (3) suggests, “the only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter”.
Start by noting your achievements and the value you’ve brought to your organisation, keeping the evidence at hand for any moments those feelings of imposter syndrome creep in. A 2015 study indicated that self-affirmation interventions can reduce feelings of inadequacy, enabling individuals to perform better under stress (4). So, go on – grab that notepad and jot down your wins – big, small, and everything in between. A dash of self-love can help ward off the imposter blues!
Next stop, mind makeover! Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging our thought patterns. It’s a technique widely used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it helps us toss out the old and bring in the new, positive narratives. Changing the lens through which we view our accomplishments can drastically alter the Imposter narrative we feed ourselves.
Embrace the concept of “failing forward”. Every setback is an opportunity for growth and development. Adopting a growth mindset, a concept developed by psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, can help us perceive failures not as proof of our incompetence, but as a natural part of the learning process (5). The result? A better, stronger you!
Finally, the power of the pack! While self-interventions are powerful, external support can be the ultimate tool to help further strengthen your fight against Imposter Syndrome. Mentorship can play a pivotal role in this journey. A 2019 study showed that mentoring relationships help reduce Imposter Syndrome by providing reassurance, validation, and support (6).
Consider joining peer groups or leadership networks where experiences and feelings can be shared openly. You’ll be surprised to find how many others struggle with similar feelings. Acknowledging the commonality of this experience can help alleviate the self-perceived stigma around it. Plus, think of the bonus networking opportunities!
Imposter Syndrome is more than just an annoying hanger-on, it’s a sign you’re growing and pushing boundaries. It shows that you’re exercising healthy ambition and venturing out of your comfort zone – and that’s something to celebrate!
So, let’s flip the script and transform our Imposter Syndrome into a reminder of our ever-evolving self. Each time it pops up, treat it like a check-engine light to pause, reflect, and celebrate our achievements.
Remember, the more we talk about Imposter Syndrome, the less power it has over us. It’s time to unmask the imposter within and let your true, brilliant self shine through.