Recognize Impostor Syndrome
4 ways to overcome it and own your success!
Marty de Jonge
4 ways to overcome it and own your success!
“Anne gives a presentation, and afterwards, she receives many compliments, not only from her colleagues but also from her supervisor and the division director. “Well,” Anne thinks, “I was lucky that the audience only asked a few critical questions. Or, this success was because of my colleague who helped me so well with the preparation of the presentation.”
Anne puts the success of the presentation outside herself. She is ignoring the fact that not everyone can do this just like she did. She might feel they can do it equally well.
“Whenever Joe’s manager goes on vacation, Joe takes over some of his duties. He has done this before and to the full satisfaction of the manager. One of the duties is to chair the department meeting on Monday morning. Then an argument arises between two team members, and one of them leaves the meeting room angry. Joe thinks to himself: “You see, I can’t do this well. I should have avoided that fight. This is too ambitious for me. ”
Joe sees the cause of the quarrel in himself. That, while it may well be that the quarrel would also have arisen if Joe’s manager had led the meeting.
If the above scenes sound familiar to you or you recognize yourself in them, then now you have a name for it: “impostor syndrome.”
Attributing the result of your behavior to factors inside or outside yourself has a lot of influence on your self-image
What exactly does impostor syndrome entail, and how to fight it?
If you suffer from impostor syndrome, then:
- You think you are presenting others with an unrealistic image of yourself.
- You are afraid to be exposed one day.
- You are afraid that others will find out that you are not competent enough.
- There is a continuous voice in your head that is very strongly present. It always critically comments on everything you think, do, or should have done.
- You have developed all kinds of mechanisms to prevent that exposure.
The impostor syndrome occurs in both men and women. Although, according to Kathy Caprino in her Forbes publication, the number of educated, capable, and successful women who struggle with this problem exceeds that of men.
If you suffer from this, know that YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Most of us, if not all, suffer from it one way or another. And you are in great company! People who also suffered from this monster called Impostor Syndrome include people like Lady Gaga, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Serena Williams, David Bowie, and even Albert Einstein!
What are the consequences of impostor syndrome?
The impostor syndrome leads to insecurity. In particular, uncertainty about your own abilities. To avoid exposure, you can (unknowingly) use different protection mechanisms.
Mechanisms like finishing nothing, procrastinating, staying under the radar, and the most common. The two most common are working hard and avoiding challenges. I will briefly explain the last two.
In order not to be ‘exposed,’ you work hard (even more), and you become very perfectionistic. You don’t want to make mistakes because that’s proof that you are not up for the job. You feel that hard work leads to the desired result. However, unfortunately, you do not attribute this success to your personal competences. Instead, you attribute it to the hard work, just luck, or the help of others.
For the next challenge, you don’t dare to trust your competences because you feel that the next success depends on external factors. So you are again insecure and afraid that you will not succeed. This will make your work even harder. You become even more perfectionist and in the long run. You may work so hard that you will bypass yourself and end up in burnout.
In order not to be ‘exposed,’ you avoid challenges. Nice and safe.
If you don’t reach too high, you can’t fall too deep.
So you set the bar low for yourself. But if you avoid challenges, you cannot experience successes. That means that you cannot experience what you are good at, where your qualities lie.
While you use these shields to protect yourself, they do more harm than good in the long run. These protective mechanisms ensure that your feelings of impostor only become stronger and your long-term ambitions decline or disappear. Your overall feeling of happiness strongly diminishes, and burnout is lurking.
4 ways to overcome impostor syndrome and own your success
1. Journal your feelings
This technique is also used in CBT ( Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). When writing, you force yourself to think more slowly. You can never write as fast as you can think. This makes it easier for you to rationalize your thoughts and feelings.
By doing this, you create a space for yourself to stand still, inspect and adapt to what you experienced at that moment.
2. Research your impostor syndrome
Reach out and talk to people you trust. You will be surprised how many people around you have the same doubts about their own knowledge and skills.
In her book “The Secret Thoughts Of Successful Women,” - Valerie Young describes the surprise she felt when it turned out that her peers and mentors had a similar kind of feeling that they happened to be in the right place at the right time, which made them successful instead of owing it to themselves.
“To me, they were intelligent, articulate and supremely competent individuals. To learn even they felt like impostors rocked my world.” — Valerie Young
3. Strengthen your self-defence
It is a long way to tackle the impostor syndrome; it does not go overnight. But tactics are available to help yourself in the short term to overcome your self-doubt step by step.
If you find yourself criticizing yourself, consciously try to distance yourself from the internal chatter in your head.
You can do that by thinking of yourself in the third person. with that, you create distance to view yourself from the outside-in (like the rest of the world sees you), and you apply a ‘Growth Mindset.’
Instead of asking yourself: “why did I do that?” ask “why would he/she do that?”
Instead of saying to yourself: “I can’t do that,” say “I can’t do that, Yet.”
4. Validate your strengths
Reading books and articles like this one, looking to videos. They all sharpen your mind and personal belief that you can beat impostor syndrome!
By being aware of your talents and shortcomings, you can start working on them. If there is something you feel you can improve, accept it for yourself and don’t judge yourself for it.
If you accept it, you can also set yourself a goal to work extra hard on that aspect for the next xx weeks. By doing that, you make a growth step yourself. By taking it step by step, you’ll receive small encouragements and proof to yourself that you deserve to be recognized for what you know and can do. After all, you have just invested weeks of time and effort. Not someone else, You! Yourself!
To beat the impostor syndrome, we have to break that self-fulfilling way of thinking that we are not good enough. If you can overcome impostor syndrome, you can enjoy your success and the recognition you receive for it.
You can be proud to own your success!
Marty de Jonge
Marty de Jonge
As an agnostic change agent, I am constantly amazed at what happens in organizations and learn every day. Enthusiastic writer and always open for discussion.