Today we are going to do a deep dive into Imposter Syndrome – what is it? How do you know if it’s happening to you? And most importantly – what to do about it if you feel you ARE being impacted by the Imposter Syndrome in your own mind!
Imposter Syndrome is essentially this internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others believe you to be. It’s when the people around you have confidence that you are competent to do the presentation, make the sale, perform the procedure or manage the project and you are definitely NOT sure that you are able to do it. It’s characterized by doubting your skills and abilities and feeling like you are a fraud. Maybe you feel like you got lucky… a couple of lucky breaks got you where you are instead of your skills, talents and qualifications. Instead of feeling like you earned those promotions and earned that job that you have, you think that you just happened to be in the right place at the right time and knew the right people.
It’s estimated that more than 70% of people will feel these doubts and feelings of imposter syndrome as some point during their lifetime. This can be a pervasive problem that bleeds into your personal and professional life. It can change the way that you show up in the boardroom and at a backyard barbecue… you might be thinking… so what do we do about it?
Here’s the thing… if you put two women next to each other with the exact same skill and abilities and one had thoughts and feelings of being an imposter and the other had confidence to spare… they are exactly the same in their ability to perform whatever task you ask them. Whatever task or challenge you put in front of them they are equally capable. The difference is that Woman A believes she can do it and Woman B doubts her ability to perform the task. How do we bridge the gap and get Woman B to stop doubting herself? Change her thoughts.
Here’s the thing… changing your thoughts changes your feelings and doubt is a feeling that you are wrestling with if Imposter Syndrome is something you are dealing with…
… so if you are listening to this and that sounds like you… I’m sure you are wondering with bated breath… what is the antidote to imposter syndrome? There’s not magic pill or potion that is going to be a cure-all for you to be healed and rid of imposter syndrome immediately, but here are some antidotes that I’ve compiled to help you combat those feelings of doubt that feed into Imposter Syndrome.
If you think about it… the one antidote to feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter. Change your thoughts… Change your feels… Poof, no more Imposter Syndrome. Easier said than done, right? Well, let’s get started, then!
- The first thing to help combat Imposter Syndrome… is Confidence and a Sense of Belonging
If there was ONE thing that could be considered the antidote to feeling like an imposter it’s confidence. Feeling confident in your abilities and knowing that you can and will succeed – not only is this such a great feeling but it’s going to nip those doubts in the bud.
The other part of this is a sense of belonging. Being in community with people who are encouraging and confident in their own skills… and feeling as though you belong amongst these folks can do wonders for your confidence. Finding that community can feel challenging, but stay tuned for an upcoming episode on Friendships and Finding your Tribe!
- Acknowledge your thoughts + Ask yourself “is this thought serving me”
Imagine you were a character in a cartoon and when you had a thought it popped up in one of those cloud thought bubbles… and you could look up and see the thought. Read it to yourself. And ask… is this thought serving me?
Sometimes it’s a truth, a fear, or a feeling that’s trying to keep us safe… but often it’s unnecessary doubt or something rude or derogatory. If that’s the case, take your cartoon leaf blower and turn it on full blast, pushing that thought bubble right out of the scene.
You don’t have the power to stop those thoughts of doubt from ever cropping up, but you can decide that they aren’t serving you and dismiss them!
- Learn to value constructive criticism
To be completely transparent I SUCK at this one. When people offer me criticism, constructive or otherwise, my default is to feel super defensive. My inner mean girl turns her sights to the person sharing this criticism with me and starts to run her mouth.
I have had to practice for YEARS to be able to take constructive criticism as advice and an opportunity for growth or change instead of a personal attack. This is a conscious effort on my part – I remind myself of it on a daily basis and I’m focused on it and try to be aware in situations where feedback is being given.
Honestly I’ll probably never LOVE criticism or feedback, but I have learned over time to value this, particularly when it comes from someone who has an opinion I hold in high regard. Being open and valuing these remarks has helped me to grow personally and professionally.
- Practice leads to Progress which leads to Proficiency.
That’s a tongue twister if I’ve ever heard one – practice leads to progress which leads to proficiency. Practice means trying something again and again… sometimes with success and sometimes with failure, adaptation and trying again. Progress is getting better, even slowly, inch-by-inch, over time. Being proficient is going to further elevate your confidence.
Notice that the tongue twister of practice leading to progress and to proficiency didn’t include the word “perfect”. Perfection is NOT the goal. No one is perfect. Let go of this ideal, goal, or standard. The only thing to compare to is the you of yesterday, last year, or a decade ago. Keep growing and that proficiency and confidence will come!
- Doubt is normal, but it doesn’t get to be in the drivers seat.
If someone tells you that they never have a shred of self-doubt…. Not even an inkling of doubt in their abilities… I’d say that person doesn’t have a great grasp on reality. Doubt is fact. It’s something that might crop up, even when you’ve been doing the work to overcome your thoughts of doubt and imposter syndrome… doubt existing is ok.
The power comes from not letting doubt be in the driver’s seat. We can hear thoughts of doubt and decide to dismiss them. Decide to not let those doubts dictate our actions or next steps. Think of them like a passing car, watch it come and let it go. Understand that 100% unwavering confidence isn’t the goal, it’s acknowledging and letting the doubts go!
- Separate feelings from fact
Let’s face it… the things we are feeling aren’t always rooted in facts. You might find yourself thinking “I’m a terrible mother” because you don’t enjoy imaginative play as much as the other Mom’s that you see and know… but you KNOW that you aren’t a terrible mother. You are a mother with areas of strength and weakness, just like every other mother on Earth…
Breaking this down… the thought “I am a terrible mother” isn’t based in fact. The facts… you are a mother who loves her kids, shows up every day and tries her best. You are a mother who stumbles and falls, gets back up again and is making progress.
Check the facts the next time that you are having thoughts and feelings that are making you doubt yourself. Especially those thoughts that are extremes… thoughts that include “always” “never” “terrible” or “the worst”.
- Develop a healthy response to failure and mistake making – failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently
Again – this is one that I struggle with. Failure doesn’t mean that you are good enough. Failure doesn’t mean that you don’t belong in the group. Failure doesn’t mean that everyone else is better than you.
Failure is an opportunity to find a different way, to create a different system, to develop skills and abilities to lead you towards success.
If you, like I do, have the habit of shutting down and avoiding the subject altogether if I’ve failed… hear me out.
Failure is normal. Failure is expected. Failure is a part of life, growth, business, parenting, professional and personal development. If we all gave up every time we failed we’d have a world with a crap-ton of toddler-level tantrums… we wouldn’t know how to crawl or walk, use the bathroom, drive, type, text or even talk. All of those things are learned skills.
Learning skills and developing confidence in those skills means that you have to try and fail before you can learn, try again and succeed.
Embrace failure! Expect failure! Don’t give up because it didn’t work out one time. If you can start seeing failure as proof that you are human instead of proof that you aren’t good enough or don’t belong, it will take you far!
Failure does NOT make you a fraud and it certainly doesn’t invalidate your skills or abilities.
- Don’t wait until you feel ready to start.
Here’s the thing about feeling ready… you won’t ever feel 100% ready. When I talk to expectant Moms, they often say something like “I don’t feel quite ready”… referring to not feeling prepared for motherhood. Let me tell you, I felt like that each and every time. I wasn’t ever 100% confident and ready to bring life into the world and take on the awesome and overwhelming responsibility that is raising a human being, adding that human to your existing family dynamic and the exhaustion and hormones that come along with that change. But the great thing about giving birth is that is happens… just like kids say when they are playing hide and seek… ready or not… here I come.
Letting go of the idea that you need to feel ready in order to do something is a powerful shift… we have these thoughts… I’ll feel confident when… I’ll be ready when… I’ll feel better when… but those thoughts are causing us to delay the feelings that we are entitled to. Waiting for something is robbing you of confidence and joy today!
The second part of this is taking action. Taking action in-and-of-itself is an antidote to doubt and feeling paralyzed. Choose a small action towards the bigger goal and just.do.it. Don’t wait until you feel confident.
If you’ve never heard Mel Robbins, listened to or read her book The 5 Second Rule or Tuned into her TED Talk, consider this the abbreviated abbreviated readers digest version of her inspirational self-help strategy. It’s the 5 Second Rule & in summary, you count backwards from 5…. 5-4-3-2-1… like a rocket launching… and you do the darn thing. You get out of bed. You put on your sneakers. You do the dishes. You write the email. You make the phonecall. You do whatever it was that you were procrastinating, making excuses about or considering bailing on yourself. Count down and take the first step to do the thing you’ve been thinking about.
Using the 5-second rule is a strategy to avoid those thoughts of doubt and those arguments in your head against doing the task you KNOW you’ll feel better if you do. It interrupts those thoughts and gets you moving!
The bottom line here, when these thoughts of doubt and feelings of inadequacy start to creep into the forefront of your mind… when that imposter syndrome starts to flare… I want you to remember that no one is thinking about YOU as much as you are thinking about you. Yep, you aren’t the focus of their narrative because THEY are the focus of their own narrative. The people around you are the own main character in their own story, just as you are the main character in yours. So, although it may feel like everyone is looking at, thinking about, worrying about or judging you… they are most likely feeling like that about themselves.
Changing your thoughts changes your feelings and changing your feelings changes your actions. If you can identify those thoughts that leave you feeling doubtful and vulnerable, ask if they are serving you, and let them go, you can help to filter and stack the deck in your mind with thoughts that leave you feeling empowered and able. Practicing the things that trip you up or trigger your imposter syndrome leads to a road of progress and proficiency!
And, last but not least in case no one has told you today: you are wonderful, you are skilled, you are more than able to conquer those challenges and do it with your head held high! I’m here cheering you on!