How to overcome Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever feel like you are not good enough? Like you are not entitled to do what you are doing? Do you ever feel like you don’t belong, in a world that seems to be populated by overachievers?

Well, you are not alone. That feeling is officially recognised since 1978* as “Imposter syndrome” and, is affecting two third of women in the UK.

Like every other syndrome, the Imposter one can be recognised by few symptoms:

  • feeling that own success is undeserved, or the outcome of pure luck

  • underestimation of own skills and abilities

  • fear of being exposed as a fraud

  • feeling of insecurity and self-doubt

  • need of overpreparing for a task

  • feeling that you are not allowed to fail

It appears that Imposter syndrome is the result of low self-esteem and negative thoughts about oneself, combined with the inability to recognise own success, despite consistent evidence of external validation.

Personally, I have started feeling like an imposter early on when I started my entrepreneurial journey, as setting up a business for the first time put me in an unexplored territory, where, from time to time, I couldn’t help but feeling inadequate.  At the beginning, I felt discouraged by this feeling; then, I started to look at it under a different light, and everything changed.

If you think about it, the uncomfortable feeling of not being good enough, comes from the fact that you are setting yourself up for doing something new and unfamiliar, something that puts you outside of your comfort zone. Isn’t that what being ambitious and having a growth mindset actually mean? 

So, if you - like me - suffer from Imposter syndrome, don’t despair: it doesn’t mean you are a failure. On the contrary, it means that you already have all it takes, but need to learn to believe in your potential and trust your capabilities.

How do you do that? How do you learn to shut down your inner critic and overcome imposter syndrome?

Here are my 5 top tips:

1.      Celebrate every tiny success

Instead of focusing on the big milestones you still have to reach, take a moment to stop and think about all the small victories you have achieved so far in your life, and all your daily accomplishments. Reflect on the person you once were, and how you have changed: what are the things that you do with no effort today, that felt bigger than you in the past? Recognising and valuing your strengths, is the first step to grow your self-esteem.

2.      Gather positive feedback

Nothing fortifies your self-confidence like positive feedback. The practice of asking people around you what your best qualities and skills are is a great technique to get the motivation you need. The best way to do so, is to find a good mentor, someone who is expert in your field, that can encourage you and give you objective and constructive support.

3.      Share your concerns

As we said, you are not the only one experiencing Imposter syndrome’s symptoms. So why suffering from it by yourself? Join a community of like-minded people, who are facing and can understand what you are going through. Sharing your challenges with your peers gives you a chance to relieve some pressure and learn from others’ experiences.

4.      Help others

Do you want to see what you are capable of? Help others achieving their goals in an area you consider yourself good at. Sometimes doing things for someone else can actually feel easier and less stressful than when you do it for yourself (for your job or your business). This is the best way to feel empowered and realise how much you can give, while actually doing something good. Is there anything better than this?

5.      Value your mistakes

The fear of failing is what holds you back when suffering from Impostor syndrome. So, let’s picture the worst-case scenario: you set yourself up for something new, you put all your efforts into it, and you fail in achieving the expected result. The truth is, even when you do the best you can, you can still make unforeseen mistakes. While there is not much you can do about that, it’s up to you to decide how you want to use them. Are you going to let them dragging you down, or holding you back in the future? Or are you going to use them as invaluable learning opportunities? If you choose the first option, you’ll let the Imposter syndrome taking over. Otherwise, you’ll be the one in charge: you will transform every false step and failure into a chance to learn and grow, and to do better the next time.

 

*The term was firstly introduced in the article "The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention" by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes