Imposter Syndrome is one of those things that we might not want to believe is real. However, I have personally experienced it, my peers have experienced it, and my clients definitely experience it. Here's what the experts say.
According to Carl Richards of the New York Times, it was American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes who coined the name, “Imposter Syndrome” back in 1978. A feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
Their research was mainly focused on women as they are more likely to suffer but it has been proved since then that men are also sufferers of imposter syndrome. In fact, according to Margie Warrel of Forbes, “researchers believe that up to 70% of people have suffered from it at some point.”
She also goes on to state, “Impostor Syndrome is the domain of the high achiever.” Others such as Inbound Marketing agree and Ximena Vengoechea of The Muse believes that the more successful you are, the more likely it is that you will suffer from Imposter Syndrome. So that’s something!
5 Ways to Outfox Imposter Syndrome
1. Remember that you’re not alone.
Many of our greatest minds, scholars and celebrities have suffered with this despite all their successes. In his book, The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin describes feeling like a fraud all the time despite having over a dozen best selling books.
Nobel prize winning quantum physicist Peter Higgs fell prey to it according to Creative Shift and “Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet confided: “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud.” Other sufferers include Author, Poet & Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou, Chief of the World Health Organization Dr. Chan, Actor Don Cheadle and Actress, Writer & Producer Tina Fey. The majority of people feel it at one time or another in their lives so you’re definitely not on your own.
2. Stop comparing yourself.
Get off social media or unfollow those who make you feel like you’re not good enough writes Kyle Eschenroeder. He believes that the fact that we’re online a lot more these days is worsening the situation of imposter syndrome. It ties in with the whole FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) phenomenon. Author Iyanla Vanzant goes as far to say, “comparison is an act of violence against the self.”
And of course everyone has heard the popular Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. You have to focus on yourself and your own successes in order to move ahead. Otherwise you’ll spend your life just watching others, paralyzed in fear.
3. Push through the doubt.
You need to feel the fear and do it anyway. Pat Flynn said, “Imagine a world where nobody tries because they’re worried about failure.” Where would we be? Progress and change are needed – failure is just part of the process. Imposter syndrome cannot stop you from getting the important work done and that’s something that a sufferer needs to realize.
You need to avoid being selfish and think about the people that can use your knowledge and help. Imagine if people like Seth Godin had allowed imposter syndrome to stand in their way? C.S Lewis famously wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
4. Keep reminders around of your achievements.
Kyle Eschenroeder states that he keeps a file on his computer of all the nice things people say about him and his work. Anytime he feels like a fraud, he can go through all the messages.
Being human, we occasionally need acknowledgement of our successes from others to allow us the resolve to keep going. In the first place, you need to accept any compliment or positive feedback given to you and not try to deny or explain them away. Seth Godin believes "I'm not worthy," isn't a useful way to respond to success. And neither is, "that's it?" It might be better if we were just a bit better at saying, "thank you."
Another way of going about this is to simply ask someone outright according to Ximena Vengoechea and also Inbound Marketing. By getting another person to tell you the truth, you can “identify when those feelings of fear are irrational and [be reminded] of your strengths.”
5. Realize your value; it’s not about attaining perfection.
Margie Warrell of Forbes points out that “You don’t have to be Einstein to be a valuable asset to your organization and to those around you. Nor do you have to attain perfection to share something with the world that enriches people’s lives in some way.” By realizing that you have a voice that is valuable and deserves to be heard, you can overcome imposter syndrome.
Inbound Marketing states that we need to break our negative patterns of thinking by identifying our “automatic thoughts and use them as triggers for more positive thinking.” The book, The Artist’s Way at Work: Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom: Riding the Dragon also goes into this theory of changing your thinking.
Creative Shift believes that “suffering from impostor syndrome robs us of satisfaction for our genuine achievements and clouds our judgment when it comes to self-improvement.” You have to remember the fact that “Maybe your business just started existing 5 minutes ago or 10 minutes ago or 5 years ago, but YOU did not just start existing 5 minutes ago.” You always have some form of value to offer.
When did you first experience Imposter Syndrome? How did it manifest or show up for you? What did you do about it? If you're still struggling with it, use the comments to tell your story so that others can know that they're not alone.
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Adam Dudley is an author, coach, mentor, and consultant. He writes. He mentors. He adventures. Explore, learn, grow, repeat.
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