1. Know the signs
Often the signs of Impostor Syndrome in day-to-day life are overlooked. However, recognising them is the first step toward overcoming them.
Feel like you "got lucky" when you prepared and worked hard.
Find it hard to accept praise.
Apologise for yourself when you didn't do anything wrong.
Hold yourself to very high standards.
Find the fear of failure paralysing.
Avoid expressing confidence because you think people will see it as bragging, overcompensating or obnoxious.
Are convinced you're not enough.
Notice the language you use, whether it’s talking to other people or to yourself -- especially when it comes to talking about work. If you find your own success or the praise others give you uncomfortable, just think where those thoughts came from and what it means in your personal and/or professional life.
2. You're not alone
When you have Impostor Syndrome, some of the most important encouragement comes from realising how many highly successful people, (male and female alike), have very successful careers whilst handling it.
Here is an example of highly successful people who have spoken about their impostor syndrome.
Author, Poet & Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou - "I have written eleven books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'"
Actor Don Cheadle - "All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud.”
Actress, Writer & Producer Tina Fey, from her book Bossypants - "The beauty of Impostor Syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.”
3. Distinguish between humility and fear
There's taking humility in your hard work and accomplishments, and there's feeling overcome with fear because of them.
The actor Seth Godin put it in a blog - "When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw."
But it is possible to feel worthy without feeling entitled and overcoming Impostor Syndrome is all about finding a healthy balance between the two. Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory. We don't have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open or humble."
4. Let go of your inner perfectionist
Perfectionism, can sometimes be helpful, but it can also be a major block for productivity.
Many people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are high achievers; people who set extremely high standards for themselves and are committed to doing their best and being the best. In fact I’ve found that the higher up the ladder and more successful one goes the more prevalent Imposter Syndrome is.
But perfectionism only feeds into Impostor Syndrome. When you feel like a fraud, it's usually because you're comparing yourself to some *perfect* outcome that's either impossible or unrealistic.
Holding yourself to do everything perfectly can actually be super counterproductive. In my opinion there is no such thing as perfection. At some point, you need to take a step back and ask yourself: When is good enough good enough?
Striving for perfection is usually unrealistic -- and often, it's counterproductive and will only make you feel more like a fraud.
5. Be kind to yourself
"Take the pressure off yourself and stop trying to be the expert on day one." advises HubSpot marketing manager Jennifer Stafancik.
Impostor Syndrome often manifests itself as a voice in your head, berating you with negative messages like "you're not smart enough" or "you're a fraud."
Negative self-talk intensifies your stress and anxiety levels.
"Being kind to yourself" simply means changing the way you talk to yourself and by practicing positive self-talk. Not only can it help you become less stressed and anxious, it can also help you build the courage to do things that'll bring you greater rewards.
Maria Klawe, a computer scientist and the 5th President of Harvey Mudd College, suffered from what she called “Imposteritis”, for most of her career. While she found it hard to silence her negative thoughts completely, she practiced hard to add positive thoughts to her inner voice.
"Now I wake up most days with a voice on the left side of my head telling me what an incredible failure I am," she wrote. "But the voice on the right side tells me that I can change the world -- and I pay more attention to it."
First, catch yourself whenever you have a negative thought. Then, challenge that thought – e.g., if you find yourself thinking, "I just got lucky," challenge that by thinking, "What steps did I take and what work did I put in to get to this point?"
A point to remember – our thoughts are like clouds – they come; pass through; and disappear”. Let your negative thoughts pass though, don’t hold on to them, let them be like clouds and let them proceed on their journey.
Then, you can answer your own question using affirmations, which are short, focused, positive statements about a goal you have. In this case, one might be as simple as, "I worked hard – and I always work hard."
Psychologists say that by repeating affirmations like this can improve stress and anxiety levels, perhaps because these positive statements build a bridge into your subconscious mind.
6. Track and measure your successes
When you feel like an impostor, one of the hardest things to grasp is how much of a role you have in your own successes. You may think it’s down to luck or others' hard work, when actually, your own work, knowledge, and preparation had a lot to do with it.
To help show yourself that you're actually doing well, make a note of all your wins on a daily basis.
There are a lot of different ways to track your wins. If you blog, keep track of your posts'. You might also keep a log of all the kind words people have said or sent to you in texts or emails etc.
In the same vein as keeping track of your success, keep a file of your wins and positive reinforcement both professionally and in your personal life. One of the best things to do is create a folder called "Wins," or “Gratefulness , or “WOW Moments” where everything is stored as far back as you want to go, up to the present day, so Look at them regularly, this will help your neuro-pathways to adjust and take them on board.
You could also take screenshots of emails, tweets, etc - whatever makes you feel good about your hard work.
7. Talk about it with a mentor / Therapist
No one should suffer in silence. Sharing your thoughts and experiences with someone else will make you better equipped to deal with your Impostor Syndrome. It’s recommended that sharing them with both a mentor, therapist, trusted friend, peer.
Your mentor / therapist will be able to help you talk freely and honestly about your struggles with Impostor Syndrome, whilst giving you a more objective point of view, and tools to deal with it.
Finding a mentor / therapist to talk to is a highly recommended strategy that top people endorse.
8. Say "yes" to new opportunities
It's impossible to say "yes" to everything, especially when you're feeling stressed. But it's all too common for people who have Impostor Syndrome to turn down opportunities because they don't feel like they’d do a good job.
When you're presented with a new opportunity, it's important to distinguish between the voice in your head saying you can't do it because you're not worthy and the one saying you can't do it because you have too much on your plate. The first is your Impostor Syndrome speaking.
Remember: Taking on a new challenge and doing it well can open many doors for you. Don't let your inner impostor turn down these opportunities. They can do wonders to help you learn, grow, and advance your career.
Richard Branson said:
"If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later."
While it might be intimidating to take on a role you're not sure you can succeed in, know that you were asked to do it for a reason, and there's nothing wrong with learning new things and asking questions along the way.
I’ll let you into a secret, I’ve actually done just that a few times during my career and I’ve succeeded.
9. Embrace the feeling and use it
The fact that highly successful people like Maya Angelou and Don Cheadle feel that way after all they've accomplished is evidence that it can sometimes be a lifelong condition.
That's why the best way to tackle your Impostor Syndrome is not to get rid of it; it's stopping it from hindering your success.
Lastly Taking on Imposter Syndrome
Richards put it: "We know what the feeling is called. We know others suffer from it. We know a little bit about why we feel this way. And we now know how to handle it: Invite it in and remind ourselves why it’s here and what it means."
Richards says he's been invited to speak about his work and career all over the world, and yet he still hasn't been able to get rid of his Impostor Syndrome. What he has learned to do is think of it "as a friend."
Whenever he hears that negative voice, he pauses for a minute, takes a deep breath and says to himself,
"Welcome back, old friend. I'm glad you're here. Now, let's get to work."