Emma Watson admits to it.
Seth Godin writes about it.
Even Lady Gaga has confessed to harboring feelings of it…
Yep. That crippling sense that you’re not actually as clever/experienced/worthy/entitled as other people think you are, and pretty soon they’re all going to find out you’re a fraud.
Impostor Syndrome (also recognized by psychologists as Impostor Complex, Impostor Phenomenon, the Impostor Cycle, and Fraud Syndrome) is actually a lot more common than you’d think. (Wondering if you’re a sufferer? Click here for 10 signs that you are). Maybe it’s the multiple lives we lead on all of our social media platforms these days, and the pressure of keeping up appearances on Facebook, being witty enough on Twitter and keeping our lives Insta-ready at all times? Being all things to all men – professional, vulnerable and through it all, authentic – can take its toll and leave us feeling like we’re not doing anything quite well enough.
So even if you’re actually winning at life (and it’s most likely that, yes, you are!) Impostor syndrome can leave you riddled with self-doubt, low in confidence and feeling like a failure. Even the most successful folks in the world suffer from it, so if you’re feeling the strain, you’re not alone. So are you ready to kick Impostor Syndrome to the ground, release that fear of failure and get back to feeling like your best self?
Here are 10 ways that work…
1. Focus on your contribution
Without ever trying to, people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are often actually stuck inside their own heads and letting their ego take charge. It’s a funny paradox – plummeting confidence levels actually giving that ego more power, but think about it for a second. A lot of the negative thoughts and anxiety that the Impostor phenomenon gives rise to, are actually all about you.
- “They think I’m a fraud…”
- “They don’t like me…”
- “I’m not worthy of…”
- “I’ll get found out…”
See the pattern here? So how about shifting focus a little? How about instead of thinking about everything you do in terms of how it reflects back on you, try framing it in the context of your contribution to the world.
- What good are you putting out there?
- What ways are you improving the world, and the lives of other people?
- What results are you helping to create?
- How much better off is the world, because of your effort?
As your focus gently shifts outward, you’ll realize that how your efforts in the world reflect back on you, is actually one of the least important things.
2. Seek out your Wins (and keep a record)
I’ll bet you do a LOT of good that you’re either totally unaware of or choose not to acknowledge. Fraudulent feelings are usually to do with a total lack of balance between success and failure (which are subjective anyway).
Here’s an example: I could write an article that’s only read by a couple of hundred people – on the surface not much of an accomplishment considering the time it took. But if one person leaves a comment to tell me how much the article helped them in a time of need, that’s makes it a brilliant and worthwhile thing! So do I look at the numbers and consider my work a failure? Or do I screenshot that comment and keep it as a reminder of the good I put out into the world?
Keeping a record of your wins, big and small, is a great practice as when you are feeling that insecurity rise and that self-worth drop, it gives you something undeniable to refer to, to put that fear back in its place!
3. Celebrate your successes
So you’ve successfully kicked that impostor to the curb and recognized that you did something rather good. Now what?
Celebrate yourself! Go out for cake with a colleague, buy yourself that new sketchbook you wanted, take half a days holiday and drive to the beach… do whatever it is that will instill a sense of cheer and recognition that, well, you’re NOT a failure! These little acts of self-love are more than just gifts to self. They can serve as mini rites of passage, markers of transitions between one state and another – in this case, you and your success.
4 Practice Self-acceptance
But on the other hand… do you even have to prove anything to feel worthy?
Those entering the advanced levels of conquering Impostor Syndrome know that overcoming the symptoms of Impostor Phenomenon actually require nothing more than total self-acceptance. And that means accepting yourself exactly as you are: your true self.
But there’s a reason this is a practice.
It’s very difficult to get to a state of self-acceptance straight away – it usually takes a little bit of practice every day.
- Follow this link for some great tips on how to practice self-acceptance.
- And for an extra boost to get you started on the journey of self-acceptance try this free akashic records clearing.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
It seems an impossible task with SO many voices shouting to be heard across the airwaves but are you letting too many of them in? If other people’s social media profiles are making you feel inadequate, or podcast interviews with successful people in your field are leaving you with anxiety and fear that you’re just not good enough, then is it time to switch off, unsubscribe or unfollow?
The second you’re consuming more than you’re creating, the balance is off and that’s when the self-sabotage takes its grip… So take it back! And stop those comparisons.
6. Allow yourself to be wrong
Everyone’s human. Even you! And you know what? Getting things wrong doesn’t make you a failure and it doesn’t make you a fake, it’s simply a sign that you have a lesson to learn on your journey. So allow this to unfold as it needs to – you will be stronger for it.
7. Write it out – face your truth then BURN it!
This is a really effective coping strategy for when the Impostor strikes and you’re overcome with self-deprecating feelings. Grab yourself a pen and paper, set aside 10 or 15 minutes and face your fears!
Write down why you’re such a fake, what you’re so terrible at, the skills you don’t have that you should, the qualities you’re missing that everyone else assumes you have… Really let loose – scribble down all that guilt, all that inadequacy and record all that suffering (don’t worry, no one needs to see it).
Now read it all back to yourself, and I promise that it’s NOT as bad as you imagine! But even if it is, the next step will help it all go away.
Take a candle and a heatproof bowl and burn that paper into dust. Let all of those feelings go. And as the paper burns, imagine that you are instead filled with self-acceptance, strength, and capability.
8. Write a new story
Many of the most persistent symptoms of impostor syndrome come from our own internal dialogues – the stories we tell ourselves over and over, which end up manifesting for us, whether they’re true or not.
Maybe you think you’re no good at something, when you’re actually employed, i.e. chosen to do it, and are being paid money to do it?
Or maybe you think your opinions don’t matter, so you avoid speaking up in conversations, even when you feel strongly about a certain subject?
If you really do want to overcome Imposter Syndrome (and as you’re this far down this blog, then you owe it to yourself!) then it’s time to do the work – only you can work out what those stories are, that you keep reeling off inside. Do yourself a favor, and write yourself some new ones. True ones.
9. Don’t aspire to be an expert
Life is very different now than it was 50 years ago. With Grandmother Google available for questions 24/7, everyone and no one is an expert, so you’re off the hook! We’ve entered an age of more authenticity (which basically means being yourself) so it’s your unique contribution that’s what is needed, not the faceless opinion of some “expert” who knows all the answers. It’s time to stop aspiring to be somebody that the world doesn’t need.
10. Try confiding in someone about how you feel
If all else fails, why not actually ask somebody else whether they think you’re a fraud? (Choose wisely – make sure you confide in someone you like and trust, and not that ruthless work colleague who’s gunning for your job!) Tell them how you feel, explain your feelings of imposter syndrome, self-doubt, low-confidence (however it’s manifesting for you) and ask them if they believe your reasons are justified.
I’ll bet their opinions about you are very different from your own.
Now let’s begin beating your inner Impostor right now!
What are you great at? What are some of your recent wins in life? Share with us in the comments below and start believing in yourself! We do!