how to recognise and overcome imposter syndrome

Ever felt like you don’t deserve the credit or the position you’re in? Like your achievements are the results of luck or favorable circumstances rather than your own hard work? Is the fear of your colleagues or friends discovering you’re faking your skills or expertise familiar to you? Do you ever think you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?

You’re not alone. All of these feelings are known collectively as imposter syndrome. Research shows that 70% of people experience it at some point of their lives in personal and professional fields. No matter the position, age or family status, imposter syndrome can happen to anyone.

what is it exactly?

Imposter syndrome is best described as the thought that you can only succeed due to luck and not because of effort or knowledge, or not being able to own your accomplishments. Statistics also show that women are more likely to be subject to the imposter syndrome and overall feel underqualified more often than men.

know the signs - how to detect imposter syndrome

You’re a workaholic and a perfectionist.

People who tend to overwork, since it’s never quite enough or not quite as good as it could be, are likely to experience the symptoms of imposter syndrome. Constant inner criticism provides motivation to keep working. It can bring brilliant results, yet an intrinsic feeling of dissatisfaction.

You’re always the strong one.

We’re human and it's okay to feel weak and emotional. It’s okay to have moments of low energy or mood swings. Trying to ignore your true feelings as well as the need for rest or support leads to burnouts, self-doubt and negative thoughts.

You always try to be the expert.

If you’re a know-it-all, it’s likely because you subconsciously are afraid to reveal a sudden lack of knowledge. People who are hard on themselves tend to overcompensate with excessive display of expertise. There's no need to keep proving everything to anyone, and I don’t know is a perfectly acceptable phrase.

overcome it - how to fight imposter syndrome

Spotted some of the symptoms of imposter syndrome? Worry not! There are ways to overcome it and calm your inner critic down.

#1 share your secret.

It’s proven that the first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is admitting that you are experiencing it. Telling others (or even just yourself!) about what you are experiencing might feel like revealing a secret, but what comes next is worth the trouble: relief. You will no longer feel the guilt of hiding something. Not only will honesty about your feelings allow you to start addressing them, but you might also find that the people around you feel the same about themselves. You are not alone!

#2 say your name aloud.

Research shows that simply saying your name out loud helps you raise your spirits and focus on what's best for you. There’s a reason why hearing a loved one say your name is so satisfying. Be that person for yourself from time to time. Positive affirmations change the game!

#3 honestly assess strengths and weaknesses.

If you have a hard time viewing yourself objectively, take stock of your successes. Make a list of your recent achievements and victories, even if they might seem small to you. Praise yourself for the progress you make daily. You deserve a reward and recognition.

With an exercise like this, you can learn to appreciate your strengths. At the same time, ask trusted connections for feedback, and set improvement goals

#4 visualize success

Simply picturing your goals and the way you achieve them is guaranteed to trigger positive emotions and motivation. Oh, and don’t fear failure, rather reframe it as a learning opportunity - and take risks! Kickass women like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama swear on visualization, positive affirmations and create their own vision boards.

what leaders can do to help their team members

A lot of leaders know what imposter syndrome feels like, since they used to experience it (many still do!). Here’s what you can do to help those who struggle around you.

#1 knowledge is key

Simply knowing about imposter syndrome and acknowledging that others feel it too helps significantly. It can make people feel supported when you as a leader openly talk about yourself experiencing imposter syndrome in your career, and help your team thrive in a supportive environment.

#2 training, coaching, & mentorship

If you can, share your experience and knowledge with aspiring leaders around you. It can help equip the management with the right tools: good leadership skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy and feedback tactics. It’s also crucial to prioritize mental health and inclusivity in your circle or your team.

Last but not least: give credit and communicate authentic appreciation!

So, next time you start doubting your own work and skills, or denying your own hard work, make an effort to pause and acknowledge it might be imposter syndrome speaking. List a few of your latest achievements, even the little ones, remember the hours you’ve committed to the result, talk to your friends and colleagues for some encouraging words, give yourself a pet on the back and remember — you’ve got what it takes!

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