You are at work and it is time to give the presentation you have been working on all month. You are a few hours before presenting but suddenly your head is attacked with negative thoughts. These thoughts are brutal as they question your credentials, your capabilities, and even your right to present. Inside, you feel yourself begin to shrink as you start to believe all of your leadership and work peers have been duped the whole time. They believe you are the person for the job based on all of your milestones thus far when deep down, you do not know how long you will be able to continue to “fake the part.”
The scenario you just read is an example of what the term “imposter syndrome” can feel like. According to Harvard Business Review, this phenomenon is defined “as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” The difficult aspect of imposter syndrome is that no matter how many things a person has accomplished, they still feel as though they are fraudulent and do not represent the real version of themselves. Research has linked the theory to parental attachment issues, whereas labels parents placed on a person as a child about their capabilities subsequently represent how they show up as an adult.
If you have gone through this experience, you are not alone as up to 82% of people report the presence of imposter syndrome. While it can feel like an overwhelming obstacle to face as it can lead to anxiety, shame, depression, and a lack of self-confidence, there is hope.
Here are four ways to overcome your imposter syndrome so that you can live a peaceful and empowered life:
1. Name the Voice
Imposter syndrome can be sneaky as it slowly disrupts the heart and mind over time. There are instances where you may not even know imposter syndrome is in action as it can cause you to hold back from advancing your career or taking risks towards your dreams. Go ahead and give the imposter voice in your head a name. Does it sound creepy? Is it loud? Is it an inauthentic, gentle voice manipulating your mind? In order to combat imposter syndrome, you have to acknowledge when it is speaking. Once you name the voice, you are lightyears ahead in taking control of it.
2. Create a Success Jar
While imposter syndrome typically focuses on what you do not deserve and how much you are not capable of, you have the power to delete the belief system. Our thoughts and feelings are not always fact. Sometimes what happens in our minds is truly not what has happened in the real world. Take time to ask friends and family about events and situations where you have done something positive, successful, or impactful. For example, you may ask your parents to describe what they remember about your college graduation in detail. Write down these descriptions and experiences along with your own and add them to the jar. Anytime you hear “the voice,” this should prompt you to pull a story from the jar. With real stories and descriptions of your success shared from various trusted sources, you can rebuke the inaccuracies of your negative thoughts.
3. Dig Back to Your Childhood
Think about situations growing up that may have caused you to feel shame, depression, or incapable. Maybe this is something negative a parent, a friend, another loved one, or even an enemy told you. These experiences may be the roots of your imposter syndrome and you must make peace with them in order to move forward. This does not mean the person was right at all, but it is about accepting the experience for what it was at the time and reminding yourself of how you are no longer the same person. Using a growth mindset, you must realize that you have developed and changed since that time, therefore your capabilities have grown immensely too. Staying in the mind state of the child who was called “stupid” is only detrimental to your future success and it certainly does not define the person you are today (though you were never stupid back then either).
4. Know Your Values
Values serve as our North Stars in our lives as they keep us on track, even when we begin to feel lost. When you can identify what is important to you, you will be able to find peace in upholding your values, despite the outcomes in the world. If you value creativity, then when you complete a project and start to feel like an imposter, it is crucial that you reroute back to how you upheld your value of creativity throughout the project. You were true to yourself by keeping this value at the forefront and this is far from what an actual imposter would do. Therefore, you are successful by honoring what you believe in, which is a big step in self-acceptance and love, eventually knocking the case for “being an imposter” out of your life.
You are much more powerful than you think and overcoming imposter syndrome is a journey that requires consistency and commitment. Trust yourself and your process even if you fall from time to time. Most importantly, remember recovery is always possible when you believe you can recover.