Picking up from where my pervious article on the imposter syndrome left off, I’ll be talking about the things you can do to overcome your impostor syndrome. But first, I’ll start with a quick reminder of what the impostor syndrome is, in case you haven’t read my pervious article.
What Is The Imposter Syndrome?
Living with impostor syndrome is to live with a deep-seated insecurity that you’re not sufficiently capable, often combined with the fear they’ll be exposed as a fraud (McAllum, 2016).
Therefore, people struggling with impostor syndrome will dismiss their achievements, believing instead that there must be another explanation for their success that isn’t attributed to their abilities (Sverdlik, Hall, and McAlpine, 2020). For example, they lowered their standards for me.
17 Ways To Overcome Your Impostor Syndrome
This is an activity that sounds easy, but for someone with impostor syndrome, it can be extremely hard to complete. All you need to do is list your achievements, no matter how small. It can be anything from cooking a new meal and not burning it to getting three GCSEs. If you’re struggling with this, which is likely if you have impostor syndrome, ask the people that know you for help.
A lot of clients I’ve worked with have really struggled with this. But as we spend time going through this task, asking questions, and exploring the answers, you can quickly go from having one or two achievements and turning that into 50 achievement in the course of a few sessions.
Own your successes
Everyone likes a bit of modesty from time-to-time, but failing to acknowledge your successes undermines your sense of self. Instead of saying you were lucky or some other such modifier you’re using to self-sabotage your achievements, take the time to acknowledge your success. In fact, get out your list of achievements and add it to the list. Or, if you prefer, write it in your journal with some additional notes about your reflection on your success.
Facts over feelings
One of the most common thinking errors is confusing feelings with being facts. Just because you feel that you’re not good enough, doesn’t make that a fact. Learn to recognise the difference between a feeling and what’s true. One way you can do this is by examining the evidence for the feeling so you can weight up if it’s true or not.
Challenge your thoughts
There are several ways you can do this. One method is to look for evidence for and against what your intrusive thoughts are telling you. Another method would be to just flip whatever the thought is telling you. So if you thought is telling you you’ll fail, you’ll start telling yourself you’ll succeed. You could even start recalling the times where you didn’t fail when you thought you would.
Ignore your thoughts
This is my personal favourite, although it’s not for everyone and it’s not always easy to do. What you can try is to leave your thoughts alone. Don’t engage with them in any way, as any energy you give them will strengthen them. Instead, just carry on with what you’re doing like the thoughts are just white noise in the background.
List your personal strengths. We all have them. For example, I may be a terrible speller because of my dyslexia, but I’m good at comparing and contrasting arguments and playing devil’s advocate.
Become comfortable with constructive criticism
No one enjoys being criticised, especially when it’s done in the wrong way, as I discussed in my article ‘The Hard Truth About Eating The Criticism Sandwich‘. But most criticism you’ll receive isn’t done out of malice, but because they want to help you improve. Learn to see criticism as an opportunity to grow and improve, rather than as a personal attack.
Learn to say yes to new challenges and opportunities rather than staying in your safe little bubble. Growth occurs when you step outside of your comfort zone.
Just like it’s important to say yes when new opportunities and challenges arise, it’s also important to say no when asked to do additional work when you’re not able to take it on. Don’t let your people-pleasing impostor syndrome turn you into a doormat.
Remember that during certain times in your life and throughout your career, there will be times where you’ll need to develop new skills or have to work on your competencies (Sherman, 2013). It’s a fact of life.
Failing is a part of life, but that doesn’t make you a failure. Treat every failure as a learning opportunity. When I was working for a substance abuse charity, we learned about harm minimisation. Using this approach in recovery, we taught our clients to look for ways to learn from any lapse or relapse. That way you can use what they learnt to avoid it happening again. So if you fail, try to find out where you went wrong, make improvements, and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all.
Be honest about what you know and don’t know, and seek advice from people more knowledgeable in your organisation. Simply saying, “This is new for me, and I’m working hard to learn this role” can be empowering (Sherman, 2013).
Don’t be afraid to talk to your co-workers, managers, friends, family, or anyone that might be able to help. It’s better to seek help than to make yourself sick with worry. People will only be too happy to assist you when needed. When I was doing an IT course as part of my probation for drug possession, I spent most of my time helping other people on the course who had no IT skills. This didn’t go unnoticed and was included in my reference when I asked the teacher to write me a reference for university.
The vast majority of time, perfection isn’t needed or expected. For almost everything we do, there is an acceptable margin we can aim for. We need to learn to be comfortable in living in that acceptable area for most tasks in our lives. If your kid asks you to play football, you don’t have to be David Beckham, just play football and have fun.
Just because someone is confidence, that doesn’t mean they have competence. As stated in a pervious article on self-esteem, there are lots of people like Christopher Duntsch (aka Dr Death). Just because someone presents themself as being confident, that doesn’t guarantee they have the skills to back it up.
Having healthy self-esteem is the sweet spot, but being over confident can be dangerous. It’s perfectly normal to find yourself in situations where you’re not as competent, and there’s nothing wrong with getting support when you find you’re self in such a situation.
Jack of all trades
As the familiar modern interpretation goes, “jack of all trades, master of none”, isn’t really true. For starters, most experts in a given field still need to keep learning and expanding their knowledge and competency. Here’s a secret, even people considered to be top of their field will still forget a lot of what they’ve learned and have to go back and relearn stuff. Furthermore, a jack of all trades person is often more useful than someone who’s master of one thing, because they have versatility. Don’t let not being an expert hold you back. Everyone has something to offer.
See a job you like but don’t think you have the requirements for it, apply anyway. The worse that’s going to happen is you don’t get the job, but you won’t get the job if you don’t apply either. The worst outcome is the same outcome as not trying.
People with impostor syndrome often crave external validation, but benefits from external validation never lasts and never leads to happiness. Instead, look inward for validation. You can get the ball rolling by creating a list of your achievements and strength. But you also should stop seeking out other people’s opinions and put your own forward instead. Once you’ve found the strength to value your own opinion and to share it with others, don’t backpedal. Also, have the hard conversations you’ve been avoiding. Your feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s. Never forget that.
Recognise your expertise
Make an objective and realistic assessment of your abilities and don’t just look for more experienced people for help (APA). There is nothing wrong with seeking help when needed. However, you can also put yourself forward to be a person who can help others as well. To help make that happen, an honest review of your abilities will help get you started.
So if someone asks for help or advice, don’t just point them in the direction of someone you think is more knowledgeable than yourself. Instead, try to help.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with impostor syndrome in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
McAllum, K. (2016). Managing imposter syndrome among the “Trophy Kids”: Creating teaching practices that develop independence in millennial students. Communication Education, 65(3), 363-365. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2016.1177848 and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kirstie-Mcallum/publication/303711565_Managing_imposter_syndrome_among_the_Trophy_Kids_creating_teaching_practices_that_develop_independence_in_millennial_students/links/5a9d8ce94585155dc184bdc6/Managing-imposter-syndrome-among-the-Trophy-Kids-creating-teaching-practices-that-develop-independence-in-millennial-students.pdf.
Sverdlik, A., Hall, N. C., & McAlpine, L. (2020). PhD imposter syndrome: Exploring antecedents, consequences, and implications for doctoral well-being. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 15, 737-758. Retrieved from https://www.informingscience.org/Publications/4670, https://doi.org/10.28945/4670, and http://ijds.org/Volume15/IJDSv15p737-758Sverdlik6626.pdf.