10 Steps You Can Use to Overcome
Throughout the many years that I’ve coached highly successful professional men and women, I’ve been surprised to discover how many experience some level of imposter syndrome. They fear, some more than others, that they’re not as good as people think they are and they’re going to be found out. Here are 10 suggestions for overcoming this syndrome, followed by full attribution to the author, Valerie Young, Ed.D.
- Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.
- Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
- Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.
- Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
- Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.
- Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help,” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.
- Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your Imposter feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
- Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your questions in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
- Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking – then dismissing – validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it ‘til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out here. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.
Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally recognized expert on Imposter Syndrome. She has delivered her often humorous and highly practical approach to overcoming imposter feelings at such diverse organizations as Boeing, Facebook, BP, Intel, Chrysler, Apple, Bristol Meyers-Squibb, McDonald’s, Emerson, IBM, Merck, Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble, Motley Fool, Raymond James, Space Telescope Science Institute, American Women in Radio and Television, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Trucking, Lung Cancer Partnership, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and many more.
Her career-related advice has been cited in popular and business outlets around the world including BBC radio, Yahoo Financial News, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal, USA Weekend, O magazine, Entrepreneur, Science, Elle, Redbook, Woman’s Day, The Chicago Tribune, and The Sydney Morning Herald.
And her award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive In Spite of It (Crown/Random House) is now available in five languages.