For many of us, making a change, sharing our work, or trying to reach new levels of success comes with thoughts of “I’m not qualified enough. Why would anyone pay to hear what I have to say?”
Even if you avoid not giving an opinion during a meeting, because you have a nagging feeling you don’t belong, have the experience or right to speak up, it’s a sign of the impostor lurking within you.
Coined by Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, impostor syndrome is a series of thoughts and feelings of inadequacy that relate to self-doubt and a fear of being outed as a fraud. Despite your accomplishments, you downplay your achievements, and can’t escape the feeling that one-day people are going to find out you’re a fraud.
“Maybe I Don’t Deserve Success”
Even highly successful people like Viola Davis and Maya Angelou have talked about their struggles with impostor syndrome. Angelou once said: “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.'”
During an interview with vanityfair.com, Davis said: “When I started out, I did compare myself to others. Was I good enough? Was I pretty enough for that role? But it’s the impostor syndrome that is injected in any artist out there. What it does is it keeps you striving for excellence, and wanting to do better, and wanting to get it right even when you feel like you never hit it.”
At the end of the day, impostor syndrome doesn’t equal incompetence. It has nothing to do with your talent or level of expertise. Impostor syndrome is your brain’s reaction to uncertainty and growth. Start looking at it as your internal GPS directing you to where you need to grow in your life or career.
Making Friends With Impostor Syndrome
The thing is, controlling your thoughts and mastering your mindset takes practice. Just like you would train for weeks in advance to run a marathon, you have to train your mind to deal with impostor syndrome. The trick is not to focus on waiting for your feeling of inadequacy to subside. As long as you have the desire to put yourself out there and share your gifts with the world, you have to recognize impostor syndrome as part of your process.
Become an Observer of Your Thoughts
While the best fix for impostor syndrome is taking action, the first step to any change begins with awareness. Medium reported that the National Science Foundation, the average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you discover your triggers and choose which thoughts support your goals. When is the last time you observed your thoughts? The reality is, you don’t have to believe everything you think.
Have a Conversation With the Impostor (You)
Sometimes you have to talk to yourself to get your mind right. For instance, “Yes, and” is a communication approach often used to contribute to a conversation without dismissing someone else’s ideas. This helps a person feel heard and validated and can also be used to affirm yourself. It starts with acknowledging your emotions and ends with a statement that pushes you into action despite how you’re feeling.
- Yes, I feel like a fraud, and I also know I’m qualified, so I’m going to show up anyway.
- Yes, I feel anxious and uncertain about what I’m doing, and I’m still taking the next best step to make things happen for me.
Adopt the Experimental Mindset
Contrary to what many of us were taught in school, you don’t have to be right every time to be successful. Look at it this way. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, there’s always a software update to fix or improve your device performance.
Your Plan for Improving Your Performance
The experimental mindset means everything you put out into the world is an experiment; it’s a test and opportunity to get feedback. Ultimately, your goal is to become the best version of yourself. With understanding comes the realization that you need feedback to grow. Failure as well as feedback, is your fuel to get to the next level of success.
Conquering impostor syndrome requires a marathon mindset. At times, you may get tired or need support to keep going. Whatever happens, don’t allow your temporary feelings to deter you from the life you’re trying to create.