Do you ever feel like you are a fraud when someone praises your achievements or for a new great idea? Even though you are a smart, highly skilled professional do you often feel like you do not deserve any praise? Do you feel as if you do not belong or are not entitled to feel successful? If you answered yes, then you may have imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome makes you feel as though you trick people into thinking you are better than you really are. You may worry or live in fear of being exposed as inadequate or as a fraud. It is fairly common among high achievers and successful people so it is not necessarily caused by low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence but that can be the result. In fact, some researchers link imposter syndrome with perfectionism.
It was originally though imposter syndrome only affected women but new research shows that it can hit men harder. And it commonly causes you to feel unworthy in your professional life, but can also affect your personal life and relationships.
Symptoms of impostor syndrome
Different people will have different symptoms of imposter syndrome. But there are some that are consistent among most people.
Symptoms can include:
- Negative self-talk.
- Living in the past.
- Lack of self-confidence.
- Comparing yourself to others.
- Distrusting your capabilities and intuition.
- Being irrationally scared of the future.
- Feelings of inadequacy.
- Only applying for jobs where you meet every requirement.
- Brushing off praise.
- Apologising even when you do nothing wrong.
- Fear of failure is paralysing.
- Believing it was luck even though you worked hard and were well-prepared.
- You may be a perfectionist or have impossibly high standards.
Thoughts and feelings that you may have if you have imposter syndrome include:
- Feeling like a fake. When you have imposter syndrome you may feel like a fake and that you do not deserve praise or success. You may believe that somehow you have deceived people into thinking you are better than you are. You can feel anxious about not deserving a job or promotion or that it is a mistake. If you feel like an imposter, you can worry you have given the impression you are more capable than you are, and think you lack expertise or knowledge.
- Downplaying success. When you have imposter syndrome, you may downplay your successes. You may say it was nothing or it was easy and usually find it difficult to accept compliments from others.
- Just got lucky. Someone with imposter syndrome often attributes their success to just being lucky or to something else such as it being a fluke. This can be to cover up a fear of not being able to succeed again.
- Fear of failure. Imposter syndrome can make you feel pressured into avoiding situations where you do not fail. You can feel pressure and fear about others finding out you are an imposter. Ironically, success is an issue because it makes you stand out and there is the additional pressure of responsibility. Imposter syndrome can make it difficult to enjoy your successes.
If you are dealing with imposter syndrome, here are some proactive things you can do.
Recognise the signs of imposter syndrome
Recognising the signs of imposter syndrome can help you overcome them. Being aware is a vital step to changing how you think and feel. This will help you to track your thoughts so you can see what they are and when they arise.
Notice the language you use both in your self-talk and how you talk to others particularly when talking about work and your career. Do you feel uncomfortable when others praise you or you achieve success? If so, consider why you think that way and what it means to your career.
Acknowledge how you feel. Keep a journal. Every time you feel inadequate or doubt yourself, write it down and include why you feel this way and what triggered the feelings. Be specific and detailed. This can help you see that there is nothing to really worry about.
Keep in mind that feelings are just feelings even though they are important. For example, if you feel inadequate then that does not necessarily mean that you are inadequate. Take notice of the automatic feelings and thoughts that arise. Counter these with statements based in fact. For example, “I am not inadequate because …”
Conquer your perfectionism as it feeds your imposter syndrome. It is time to set challenging, realistic but achievable goals for yourself. And learn that everyone fails at some point in life. It is part of being human. Instead of thinking of mistakes as something negative, treat every mistake as a lesson you can learn from. Here are some things that can help you overcome being a perfectionist:
- Sometimes good enough is perfect. If you always strive for perfection, you may never finish anything but do not use it as an excuse to be lazy. It is all about balance.
- It hurts the people around you and yourself. While perfectionism is a great ideal, it can cause you to make destructive choices that negatively affects those close to you.
- You need to accept you are only human. You and everyone else has flaws. There is no way to avoid it. Again, it all comes down to balance.
- Avoid comparing yourself to other people. It will only make you feel as if you are not good enough. You are yourself so look to see what you have overcome and how your life has improved over the years.
- Do not give in to other people’s expectations of you. Do the right thing for yourself. This will help you better understand who you are and other people’s opinions will matter less to you.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you become more confident. Do a swot analysis to find out what you are good at. This will help you find ways to build on your weaknesses or to minimise them.
When you have a deeper insight into what your strengths and weaknesses are, you do not have to spend so much time worrying about feeling inadequate or unqualified for different projects and tasks. Catch your negative self-talk and turn it around so it becomes positive. Surround yourself with a supportive network who can help you appreciate who you truly are.
Be proud of your successes
Be proud of your successes. When you have imposter syndrome, you can believe you do not deserve compliments. Do you feel your successes are just lucky or due to some external factor? Do you blame yourself when something goes wrong?
To what degree do you have control over your life? When you believe your actions, decisions and choices shape the course of your life, you can feel good about your achievements.
It is important to acknowledge it was your skill that helped you reach a goal or complete a project. And celebrate the achievement. It is vital to celebrate so you can feel good about yourself. Get into the habit of visualising success as you are working on something or striving to reach a goal. This will help you acknowledge success when it occurs.
Also keep a record of the positive feedback you receive and practice accepting compliments. And when you have negative thoughts or you think the praise is meaningless, write it down. Counter the negatives with the positives of why you deserve the recognition.
Accept new opportunities
You cannot accept all new opportunities. If you have imposter syndrome, you may prefer to stay in your comfort zone as you can feel you do not deserve to receive any opportunities. Or you may shy away from new opportunities as you fear you do not have the knowledge or experience to do a good job. Do not let this stop you.
When a new opportunity crosses your path, distinguish between the voice in your head saying you cannot do it because you do not deserve it and the one that says you have too much to cope with. The voice saying you do not deserve the opportunity is imposter syndrome kicking in.
Taking on new challenges, and doing them well, can create a lot more opportunities. Do not allow imposter syndrome to run your life so you turn down worthwhile opportunities.
Richard Branson has a famous quote, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.” Keep this in mind.
It may be scary taking on a role you are not positive you can succeed in. Just remember, someone thought you could do the job or they would not offer you the opportunity. And it is always good to learn something new.
Record and measure your achievements
It can be difficult to recognise your own part in achieving success when you have imposter syndrome. You may often say or think it was others’ hard work or it was simply good luck without acknowledging the role you played in the success.
Create a folder to record your successes so you can see the role you play in your achievements. How you measure your success depends on your profession. But keep a record of all the nice things people say whether it is by email, on social media or personally. It will help you realise the role you had in each success.
Talk about how you feel
Talk about how you feel with people you trust. It may surprise you just how many others understand how you feel. There is no point suffering in silence. Many people you know may have been through exactly the same thing. Take notice of the people you respect. They can show you that what you fear is not based in fact. Just discovering others close to you have gone through the same thing, and listening to how they have overcome imposter syndrome, will help you to manage it in yourself.
We are here to help
Imposter syndrome can be hard to overcome especially if you been living with it for years. When you feel you do not deserve success or you are a fraud, it can affect your career and the rest of your life. It can hold you back from taking on new opportunities. If you have trouble managing imposter syndrome, consider reaching out. When it affects your life negatively, contact us to find out how we aim to help get your life back on track. But if you reach a crisis point, call us immediately. We are here to help support you so you may be able to get your life and career back on track quicker.
We can work with you over the phone, via Skype or in our Spas. Book in today for my Unstoppable You Program. I have an introductory offer for just $99 so you may start taking back control of your life. We aim to support you to help you cope with the challenges of imposter syndrome so you may recognise your self-worth and enjoy your achievements.
Let me help alleviate the effects of imposter syndrome
My Unstoppable You Program has helped many people like you deal with imposter syndrome. We may help you to deal with the signs and symptoms. My aim is to help you replace self-doubt with a future full of opportunities in weeks not years. Listen to what Rayne has to say about my program after only a few sessions.