I'm a fake and everyone is going to find out.
If you have ever struggled with an overwhelming feeling that you do not really deserve your success or you have huge moments of self-doubt and inadequacy, there is a very good chance that you are living the Imposter Syndrome.
When you get a promotion and you secretly feel that you do not deserve it, because you feel that you lucked it – and that you may soon be caught out and exposed – there’s a big chance that you are experiencing the fraud syndrome.
If you hear the gremlins gnawing at your brain and telling you that you are way out of your depth, and the inner critic hits you and says that you do not really deserve whatever is coming your way, you are facing an imposter phenomenon.
When you leave the possibility of success to others because you do not seem to yourself to be anything like the sort of people who are being lauded and acclaimed and when you are faced with the responsibility or prestige and you quickly become convinced that you are an imposter – you know that you are facing the dreaded imposter syndrome.
Well the good news is, if you have experienced these feelings and fears you are probably an over achiever. Real imposters and real frauds never worry that they are inadequate. They are too busy scheming on giving the impression of what they aren’t.
Which brings us to the question of how to overcome Imposter Syndrome – but first.
What is Imposter Syndrome and Why Is it Dangerous?
Whenever you experience self-doubt and you get feelings of fear of failure and fear of success, and when you allow your inner critic to self-sabotage whatever success you are getting or aspiring for – you are allowing the imposter syndrome to walk away with murdering your potential.
The Imposter Phenomenon is the totally overwhelming feeling that you just don’t deserve your success. The inner gremlins biting at your head convince you that you are not as smart, or intelligent or even talented as you appear to be.
When you experience the imposter syndrome one of two things can happen:
1. You either end up overperforming – and work much harder so that you prove to yourself and other that you really deserve your success – but – deep down you never truly believe that you have done enough.
2. You “downgrade” yourself by revising your goals so that you fit into your own “deserved” status. This is more often than not the worst saboteur of your own success since you kill your ambition and you never tap into your true potential.
In worst case scenarios – you can convince yourself so much that you will actually give up.
How Do I know if I Suffer from The Impostor Syndrome?
Before getting to know how to overcome impostor syndrome, let’s find out if you suffer from it. The problem with self-diagnosing this syndrome is that you actually and genuinely believe that you are an imposter. So, it may be quite difficult to know whether you suffer from the fraud phenomenon. However, here are some indicators that may help you identify it.
1. You are riddled with self-doubt and feel inadequate
Victims of Impostor Syndrome suffer from acute lack of confidence. When you find yourself saying “I don’t deserve this” repetitively – there is a good chance that you have the fraud condition.
We all suffer from lack of confidence at some point in time in our lives, especially when we are starting out in a new job or take on a new role in our life. However, people who constantly feel afflicted with a sense of not being worthy are usually victims of the impostor phenomenon.
2. Fear of Failure and Fear of being Judged
If you live your life in constant fear of being judged or not being good enough because you believe that you do not deserve what is coming your way, you will also be affected by a fear of failure.
The fear of being judged is stemming from the constant possibility of being discovered as the fraud you really are (in your head naturally). It creates a vicious cycle of superhuman effort to prove that you are worthy of your success – which in turn brings more success and more recognition and which in turn makes you feel even less deserving.
3. Becoming a Perfectionist and Achieving beyond Your Targets
If you find yourself setting goals that are unreasonably high, you are setting yourself up for failure. When you set yourself impossible goals, the natural progression is that you will fall short of achieving your over targeted goals and then you end up self-sabotaging yourself because you fail.
Moreover, if you are a perfectionist, you will constantly pick at yourself for falling short of your own expectations. You will prefer to focus on your short-comings and mistakes and always berate yourself.
If you have these feelings, you are not unique, and it does not mean that you aren’t in fact an over-achiever.
Even after having written 11 books and having received a huge number of awards, Maya Angelou couldn’t escape her self-doubt that she didn’t deserve her accomplishments.
And Albert Einstein described himself as a “Swindler” and that he did not deserve all the acclamation and attention for his work.
Whilst there are few people who achieve work the level of Angelou and Einstein – the feeling of being an imposter and that we are not deserving is quite common.
Well, let me put your mind at rest – The Imposter Syndrome is neither a disease nor an abnormality. And it is also not necessarily tied to depression, anxiety or self-esteem. However, it is very often that we think of ourselves as undeserving in our own heads and fail to share this with others – thinking that it is just us who feels like that.
4. Downplaying Your Achievements
If you refuse to own your own success and push yourself down by saying that your achievement is overrated because it was a simple task that anyone could have done – perhaps even better – you are basically downplaying your own achievements.
When this happens, or you attach the thinking that you just got lucky or had a lot of help which you didn’t deserve, you are definitely cultivating and nurturing the Impostor Syndrome.
Given that this affliction is common to many, here is how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
Now you know whether it applies to you or not. Let’s find out how to overcome the impostor syndrome.
So How do you Stop the Impostor Syndrome Before It Stops You?
So how to overcome impostor syndrome?
According to the Journal of Behavioral Science – “it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.” Which in turn means, neither are you unique in feeling like an impostor, nor is there any reason to believe that there is no hope for you. You are normal and in good company!
Whilst Imposter Syndrome is common to both men and women, it hits a much bigger percentage of women than men. This is traditionally because women have always struggled to achieve equalityespecially at the place of work. It hits minority groups in the same manner. Because it is easy to feel out of place and that you do not belong.
Socially women have been conditioned to self-deprecate and downplay their abilities. When you internalize this kind of thinking and this message that you are not the real deal – you suffer a lot of consequences. And the consequences are not restricted to emotional and mental – but also financial because you will end with smaller careers and smaller bank accounts.
Here are 6 Strategies That Will Help You Combat the Feeling of Being an Impostor – How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
#Strategy 1 – Share the Shame
Most people carry their shame of feeling inadequate as if it were like a dirty little secret.
Shame may not murder you physically, but it has the ability to kill your soul and creates a prison for your brain and your potential to grow.
Brene Brown says this about shame “ Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love – As a Shame Researcher, I know that the very best thig to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive : Practice Courage and Reach out!”
Shame can be defused by sharing it. If you share the shame it will lose its power over you.
Have a team of support. Whenever you have a shame attack, resort to your “ninja team” of friends and family or even your mentor who will walk you through your confidence.
When you ask yourself “what if I fail” you need to also ask yourself “well, what if I fly?”
When you give attention to shame, you actually free yourself of its captivity. It will also help you if you reciprocate the favour, and endorse people who support you and remind them that they too are extremely special.
Speak with your mentor or your manager about your limiting beliefs and you will find comfort and assurance in knowing that you are on the right track after all. This is undoubtedly the number one method to overcome the impostor syndrome.
#Strategy 2 – Stop Asking if You Belong and Start Asking Whether you are Being of Service
The imposter syndrome really focuses on the “self” and leaves little attention to anything else. When you try to fit into everyone’s thing and conform in order to feel a sense of belonging you totally forget about whether what you are doing is contributing to your mission. It is little wonder that you would feel like a fraud.
On the other hand, when you focus on your mission, and own it and give it your brand of style, your trademark, you will start feeling that the reward you are getting is justified. Because, you’ve earned it.
If you look at yourself in a mirror, and realize that that is you, and that there is no one like you – no one that remotely looks like you in the 7 billion people of this earth – you will accept that you are unique. So, the service that you are uniquely providing in your world belongs entirely to you. It is fresh, it is pure, and it is you.
Remember that no one has quite experienced what you have experienced in life. No one has exactly studied what you have studied. No has observed that you have observed. No one has dealt with what you have dealt. No one has exactly the same aspirations that you have.
You have a bottomless possibility of potential that makes you totally unique. By being the original youand asking yourself how would my trueself perform? if I did not feel like an imposter, then your authentic self will balance out your imposter self.
Therefore, shine the spotlight away from you and direct it towards the service you are giving or the clients you are helping. This means that you do not even have time to remember how you are feeling because you are focusing on how the people around you are feeling.
This is an effective exercise of how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
#3 Start a Good Feel Factor Journal and Be Kind to Yourself
Whereas most coaches will ask you to journal all the moments where you had self-deprecating moments, or moments when you felt like a fraud, it would make a lot more sense to sit back and write down a list of your positive achievements over the past days, weeks, months or even years. Basically, your self-endorsement list. Even you will be surprised just how great it will be. Don’t forget to add all the nice things that people say about you.
This is the good feel factor journal which affirms that you deserve all the good things that are coming your way.
Stop trying to be the expert on day one of anything. If you stop and think about it, you are definitely two steps ahead in what you know, more than most people around you. That, in itself already makes you more qualified.
By journaling the milestones, you have managed to tick off, you will be in a position where you can afford to be kind to yourself. Being kind to yourself means that you change the manner by which you speak to yourself in your head.
When you look over and manifest your achievements, you become less stressed and anxious. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts like “I just got lucky” and challenge the thinking into “What action did I take to get that milestone ticked?” you will change the perspective of how you think.
Although it may look superfluous, journaling the good stuff will help you deal with imposter syndrome.
#4 Let Go of Perfectionism – You are Good Enough
If you are a high achiever, it is likely that you are also a perfectionist. Whilst striving for perfection and setting yourself high standards can be helpful in setting the bar for your success, it can also be a major setback in your productivity.
Perfectionism is one of the major setbacks when dealing with imposter syndrome. It feeds on your imposter and fraud syndrome. When you start feeling that you are a fraud, you usually blame yourself for being anything less than perfect.
Perfection is an ideal. It is an unrealistic state of life and can become counter-productive.
When you try to be super perfect in everything you do, you simply put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself and you slow yourself down.
You will need to step back sometimes and ask yourself “Is this good enough?” and try to look at your work objectively. Get the opinion of others too – because we are never objective about ourselves. Frequently asking for an objective opinion will help you set a far more realistic bar to your level of success.
And sometimes letting go and saying the three magic words “I don’t know” will make you a lot more approachable, a lot less arrogant in the eyes of others, and will be the humbling experience that will bridge the imposter syndrome to the approachable achiever that you really are.
#5 Wanna overcome impostor syndrome? Say “ Yes” to Opportunities as they come Along
Whilst, on one hand it is really important to know when to say “no” and we discussed this in Stress Control as a mean of not spreading yourself thin, it is quite important that you do not literally downsize yourself and not accept new opportunities and challenges because you feel that you will not be able to do a good job.
When you are given a new opportunity, you need to make a clear distinction in your head between the inner villain voice that says that you are not worthy and the other voice that is telling you that you cannot commit to a new project because you simply have too much on your plate at the moment.
One voice is the imposter syndrome and the other voice is the voice of reason.
You also need to remember that if you are early on in your career, saying “yes” to new challenging work is not just exciting, but it also opens a lot of new doors for you.
If you let your inner villain take control of your mind you will limit yourself of your potential growth. You will sit with your limiting beliefs and you will never explore your full potential.
So, stop avoiding difficulties and stop backing off. If your primary reaction is going to be avoidance, then you are never going to own your success.
If instead of avoiding the tasks, because you are afraid that you are not competent, or because you feel overwhelmed, you embrace them, then you will earn your place to feel worthy.
If you avoid the difficult stuff – your own brain will start to torture you. It will simply affirm what you have been thinking all along. If will start hearing your inner villain saying “you see – you are a fraud – you didn’t even have the spunk to try taking on a new challenge. You deserve to play small”.
If you collect small tasks, which lead you into bigger ones, every step of the way you will become very proficient in what you are doing. When you look back at your achievements, you know you will have grown into your present success. You need to gain momentum, so that it will lead you to growth without fear.
When you are worried about how to deal with Imposter Syndrome – remember a mantra that may help you “Repetition – is the Mother of Skill”. Repeat an achievement often enough and you grow into it as part of your skin. Say yes to opportunities that come along, and stop avoiding the tough stuff.
Now that is a sure way of how to overcome Imposter Syndrome – thanks Sir Branson!
#6 Work Daily Goals – You Cannot Show Up Random
You know another method how to overcome impostor syndrome?
If we do not show up consistently to our daily life and commitments, we will have a reaction. The reaction is that we will feel smaller. We feel constrained by the demands of our work, and our life. In reaction we feel that we deserve to stay stumped and not grow.
If, however, we internalize the fact that we achieve consistently, we start owning our success.
Set 5 big goals for the year ahead and then you start reverse engineering these goals.
The five goals need to be attached to five different deadlines – one immediate and the other four for each quarter.
The deadlines have to be broken down again into milestones with shorter deadlines, and the milestones broken down to tasks with even tighter timelines.
You bust down the quarterly deadlines but showing up in daily activities, and when you manage to tick off a daily activity – you then, have the power to applaud yourself, to pat yourself on the back, and it will give you the power of credibility.
Earning your credibility by relating to identifiable tasks will give you the power to identify with your own achievements. This will in turn kickstart your inner hero to deal with the nagging inner demons. Your achievements become a behaviour pattern and not a random occurrence. Therefore, the element of luck is taken out of the equation.
Setting goals is fundamental not just to deal with Imposter Syndrome but it is the foundation of a lifetime of success. By showing up and achieving your goals you gain competence. If you gain competence, you will gain confidence. And when we gain confidence you gain clarity.
If you are just reacting and doing tasks and fulfilling everyone’s needs, rather than creating your own clarity of the vision you have for yourself, you will be acting out by automation. It will eat away at you. Even if you achieve success, you do not internalize it and you do not celebrate it because you do not FEEL YOUR SUCCESS.
Last Saving Words on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Think of the proverbial rocking chair. When you are in that chair, late in your life and looking over your life, and your deathbed is calling – what will you regret? Will you regret that you tried and sometimes failed, or will you regret that you spent your entire life thinking that you are a fraud?
Perhaps it is difficult to shake off the feeling of inadequacy or incompetency, but you can still force yourself to push forward by implementing the six proven ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Overcome impostor syndrome and start living!