What is imposter syndrome?

Understanding and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Do you often feel like a fraud, despite your accomplishments? Do you worry that you’re not as capable as others think you are and that you’ll eventually be exposed as an imposter? If so, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon that affects high-achieving individuals across various industries and professions. I myself have suffered from imposter syndrome, and I know many other people who have suffered too.

In this article, I’ll explain imposter syndrome, explore its signs and causes, and, most importantly, provide actionable strategies for overcoming it so you can fully own your talents and successes.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the persistent feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that makes you question whether you deserve your achievements despite evidence proving your competence. You may feel like you’re not as intelligent, skilled, or talented as others perceive you to be, and you likely fear that, eventually, you’ll be unmasked as a fraud.

Even if you’re an expert in your field with years of experience and numerous accolades, imposter syndrome can make you feel like you don’t belong or aren’t worthy of your position. You might attribute your success to external factors like luck, good timing, or simply being in the right place at the right time rather than recognizing your own hard work and abilities.

The term “imposter syndrome” was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Their research initially focused on high-achieving women, but subsequent studies have shown that imposter syndrome affects both men and women across various industries, including business, academia, and creative fields.

Signs You May Have Imposter Syndrome

Here are some signs that you may be suffering from imposter syndrome:

  • You attribute your success to luck or external factors, not your own abilities or hard work.
  • You fear that others will eventually discover you’re not as smart or talented as they initially thought.
  • You avoid or delay taking on new responsibilities or challenges due to fear of failure.
  • You engage in harsh self-criticism and focus on your flaws or mistakes rather than your strengths and successes.
  • You downplay your expertise, thinking, “If I can do it, anyone can.”
  • You feel undeserving when recognized or praised for your accomplishments.

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

While the exact causes of imposter syndrome aren’t fully understood, research suggests that several factors can contribute to its development:

  • Perfectionism: Setting excessively high standards for yourself and feeling like a failure when you don’t meet them.
  • Family dynamics: Growing up with parents who valued achievement highly or frequently compared you to your siblings or peers.
  • Belonging to an underrepresented group: Feeling like you don’t fit in or deserve your success due to your race, gender, or socioeconomic background.
  • Entering a new role: Taking on a new position or responsibility that comes with high expectations and pressure to perform.
  • Working in a competitive field: Constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t measure up.

The High Costs of Imposter Syndrome

Beyond the feelings of inadequacy and fraudulence, imposter syndrome can have significant negative impacts on your career and overall well-being if left unchecked:

  • Missed opportunities: Not pursuing exciting new projects, roles, or promotions due to self-doubt.
  • Overworking: Putting in longer hours to “make up for” perceived shortcomings, leading to burnout.
  • Stalled career progression: Not advocating for yourself or seeking recognition for your accomplishments.
  • Lack of boundaries: Taking on too much work and not saying “no” when necessary.
  • Reduced job satisfaction: Constantly feeling like you’re not good enough, despite your achievements.

The above ‘costs’ of imposter syndrome are all things that I have personally experienced.

Proven Strategies to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Now that I’ve explained what imposter syndrome is and how it manifests, I’ll go through some actionable strategies I have used to overcome it:

  • Acknowledge your feelings: The first step is simply being aware when imposter syndrome thoughts arise. Notice them without judgment and remember that they’re a common experience, not a reflection of your true capabilities.
  • Reframe your thoughts: When you think you don’t deserve your success or that you’re fooling people, look for evidence to the contrary. Recall past achievements, positive feedback, and times you’ve overcome challenges.
  • Talk about it: Share your imposter feelings with trusted friends, family members, colleagues, or a therapist. You’ll likely discover that many others can relate and that you’re not alone in your experiences. This was personally one of the hardest steps to take as I thought it would lower people’s perception of me – this was not the case. I found people actually empathized with me.
  • Embrace authenticity: Let go of the need to be perfect or to have all the answers. Share your struggles and insecurities alongside your strengths and successes. Authenticity breeds connection and trust, both in your personal and professional relationships.
  • Celebrate your successes: Don’t brush off your achievements or minimize their importance. Take time to acknowledge and appreciate reaching important milestones before moving on to the next goal. For me, not sharing my achievements has been one of the biggest challenges holding me back from greater success.
  • Stop comparing: Comparing your behind-the-scenes struggles to someone else’s highlight reel on social media or in the office is rarely accurate or productive. Focus on being the best version of yourself and celebrating your own unique journey.
  • Adopt a growth mindset: Reframe challenges and mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve your skills rather than as evidence of your inadequacies. Embrace the idea that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
  • Change your self-talk: Notice your inner dialogue and the way you speak to yourself. Replace harsh, critical statements with kind, supportive ones. Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you’d extend to a good friend.
  • Visualize success: Before entering a situation that triggers your imposter syndrome, imagine yourself thriving and succeeding for a few minutes. See it going well in your mind’s eye and feel the positive emotions associated with that success.
  • Take action: Don’t let imposter syndrome prevent you from pursuing exciting opportunities or taking on new challenges. The more you put yourself out there and prove to yourself that you can handle new situations, the more confidence you’ll build over time.

You’ve Got This

Remember, imposter syndrome is a normal human experience, not a character flaw or weakness. You’re not alone in sometimes feeling like you’re not worthy of your success or that you’re fooling people.

By consistently implementing the strategies outlined here, you can begin to own your accomplishments, worry less about being “found out,” and more fully embrace your capabilities and talents. It takes ongoing practice, self-compassion, and dedication to personal growth.

Be patient with yourself in the process and celebrate your progress along the way. With time and consistent effort, you can absolutely overcome imposter syndrome and thrive both personally and professionally.

If you’re ready to accelerate your growth, break free from imposter syndrome, and take your business or career to the next level, I’m here to support you every step of the way. As a business coach, I thrive in helping high-achieving individuals overcome self-doubt and reach their full potential.

Together, we’ll implement a customized action plan to build your confidence, upgrade your self-talk, and get you powerfully creating the business and life you deserve. You’ll learn proven strategies to navigate challenges, make bold decisions, and own your worth in any situation.

If you’re feeling called to finally break free from imposter syndrome and step into your greatness, I invite you to book a free discovery call with me today. Let’s explore how coaching can help you accelerate your progress and achieve your goals with clarity, confidence, and ease.