Do you ever hear that annoying little voice in your head that says, “you’re not good enough”? Ever felt like what you’d achieved was more to do with luck than your intelligence or ability? Well, you’re not alone. Impostor syndrome is real – and it happens to pretty much anyone who’s ever tried to do anything. Psychologically, impostor syndrome is a cognitive distortion that stops someone from being able to feel any sense of accomplishment.
In reality, impostor syndrome is more than that: it can turn into crippling self-doubt that can hold you back in a variety of ways. Rather than let impostor syndrome overpower you, there are a number of ways to overcome impostor syndrome.
Understand that it happens to everyone.
Studies have shown that about 70% of successful people have experienced impostor syndrome, including Dr. Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein and Meryl Streep. Impostor syndrome affects people from all walks of life, in every industry. You’ve probably bumped shoulders with at least one other person who thinks they’re a fraud at some point in your life, so trust in the fact that you’re really not alone in feeling this way.
Acknowledge your achievements as achievements, not luck.
One of the ways in which impostor syndrome rears its ugly head is the way in which it tricks people into believing that their accomplishments are merely the result of luck, rather than pure ability and awesomeness. How many friends of yours have you heard downplay their achievements by saying “Oh, it’s nothing really”, or “It’s not that big of a deal”? Too many, I’m sure. The truth is, that sometimes we feel safer downplaying our achievements due to pressure to fit in rather than stand out. However, that kind of behaviour can become a habit, and can sub-consciously lead you to believe that your achievements really aren’t that big of a deal.
So the next time you do something that you feel proud of yourself for, acknowledge your achievement for just that: an achievement.
Work on your time and stress management skills.
It goes without saying that the feelings associated with impostor syndrome can be brought on or made worse by stress or fatigue. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by work or personal issues, it can be worth taking some time out to reflect on what’s really stressing you out, or what you need to spend more (or less) time on.
Acknowledge when you are feeling the effects of impostor syndrome, and use it to your benefit.
You can’t stop yourself from feeling a certain way, but you can stop it from holding you back from being great. Whenever you’re feeling bogged down by self-doubt, remind yourself that you could be feeling the effects of good ol’ impostor syndrome, and use it to push yourself forward. Actress Jodie Foster admitted in a speech at Yale that she, too, suffered from impostor syndrome. But instead of letting it get her down, she found another way to approach how she thought about the situation.
Speaking at the fourth annual Yale Undergraduates’ Lifetime Achievements Award ceremony, where she was presented with the award, Foster said, “I think that if you don’t have that feeling of being insignificant and wanting to be significant, you must not be significant. I think that pushes you to not be satisfied with who you are and pushes you to be the best person you can be.”
Finally, ask yourself 3 simple questions.
An Australian Council for Education Research guide for mature-aged students at university recommends these three questions to aid anyone suffering the effects of impostor syndrome in distinguishing harmful beliefs from reality. So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by feelings of self-doubt, you can re-centre your mind by asking yourself these three simple questions:
- When it comes to experiencing self-doubt about your abilities, what is fact and what is simply your feeling or interpretation of the situation?
- Is there a more realistic explanation for the situation, and is your interpretation the best way to view the situation?
- If you look back on this situation in 5 years, will you see it any differently?
While we can’t stop ourselves from feeling defeated by impostor syndrome from time to time, we can make sure that we take the time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and come back better.
Looking for more ways to get yourself out there in terms of your abilities? Here’s how a little over-confidence can help to boost your career.
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