How To Vanquish Imposter Syndrome
What if I told you investing in yourself is the BEST investment you can make? Would you believe me? Would you automatically say, "you're right! I'm totally worth it." Or would you start coming up with reasons why you're not good enough? Why you don't deserve it? Why your money, time, and energy should be dedicated to your employer, or your children, your partner or parent, your friend, the neighbor down the street, and everyone else you can think of before yourself.
Guess what? Investing in yourself and what you need is the best way to be a better employee, parent, partner, son/daughter, and friend. When you thrive, the people in your life thrive. But I don't want you to do it for them. I want you to do it for yourself because you know you're worth it.
I know what you're thinking, "easier said than done," and you're right. I know first- hand how hard it is to believe in yourself enough to invest your time, energy, and money into your dreams. It took me seven years to believe in myself enough to start my own business. It took me three years to commit to going back to school for a new degree. A degree that I thought I needed to convince myself I was qualified enough. It took a nervous breakdown six months after my first child to get the support and therapy I needed to overcome post-partum depression.
The reality is, we all struggle with self-doubt and prioritizing ourselves sometimes. But for many people, women especially, this self-doubt becomes pervasive. It's so prevalent in our daily lives that it starts to become our narrative, and we start to believe it. Herein lies the danger. The stories we tell ourselves usually dictate our reality. When your self-doubt takes over your thinking, it affects your beliefs, confidence, emotions, and decisions. When this happens, you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud. That you aren't as competent or intelligent as others might think – and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about you. It's the worry or belief that you're not good enough. You may feel like you don't deserve your achievements or praise and admiration. Ironically, imposter syndrome tends to affect high achievers more than others. And it's the most common issue I help clients overcome.
Do you hold back from asking questions at work or in a large group because you don't want to look less informed than everyone else?
Do you preface your ideas with caveats like "this may be a stupid idea, but…"
Do you avoid high profile projects or public speaking opportunities?
Do you struggle with negotiating salary or asking for a raise?
Do you assume other people in the room are smarter than you or have more relevant experience?
When searching for a job, do you only apply if you meet every qualification in the description?
Are you limiting yourself professionally with thoughts that begin with "I could never do that …"
Do you get a pang of guilt when you spend money on yourself?
If you answered yes to some of these, you have experienced imposter syndrome. You may already be aware that you struggle with this. Take a moment and think about the ways thoughts like these are holding you back.
Are you ready to vanquish these thoughts and banish them for good? Here are some ways to do that.
1) Recognize your imposter voice is a liar.
Psychologists call this imposter syndrome because it's not true. The negative, self-doubting thoughts are not the voice of reality. It is the voice of fear. The voice is a liar and the next time it pipes, call it out. Say to yourself; this is just my anxiety talking. It's not true.
I have found that it helps to give the imposter voice a name. I have a professor who calls it "my chattering monkey." I have a client who calls it "the committee" and another named his "Bob." Naming it helps you recognize when the fear and doubt are taking over. It also helps to shut down those thoughts. It's easy to say to yourself, "enough, Bob, I get it, you're scared," and then positively refocus your thoughts and energy.
2) Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.
Imagine your life if you talked to your friends and colleagues the way you speak to yourself. You wouldn't have any, right? Can you imagine a colleague coming to you and saying, "I'm thinking about applying for a promotion, but I'm not sure if I should?" What would you tell them? "Of course you should! You'd be great at it!" You'd probably list all the skills and qualities they'd bring to the position.
Compare that to what you may say to yourself. "I don't know, I've never done it before. What if I fail? What if everyone hates me in the role? What if I'm not as good at it and I end up losing my job? Nope, better stay where I'm at."
The next time your imposter syndrome rears its ugly head, try responding to the thoughts the way you would if you were talking to your best friend. I find journaling about doubts and fears and writing my responses to them as if I was writing to a friend to be the most effective way to overcome them. Positive self-talk can be as powerful as the voice of self-doubt. It just doesn't tend to be our default mode. We tend to go right to the negative. Sometimes you have to make a conscious choice to switch to the positive.
3) Commiserate with others.
Brené Brown has made a career out of studying vulnerability. Sharing our experiences and emotions with others strengthens our connection and belonging. Talk to your friends and colleagues about imposter syndrome. I guarantee you'll find out they have all experienced it too, some as often as you. These tend to lead to very supportive conversations, and it's very relieving to find out you're not alone.
You can also commiserate with people you admire but may not know. Many famous people and thought leaders write and speak openly about their self-doubts and personal challenges they've had to overcome. That is the essence of most great stories. Michelle Obama's book Becoming is one f my favorite examples of this. She shares her experiences of questioning herself and asking "am I good enough" repeatedly throughout the book. I can't tell you how much confidence that gave me. When I experience imposter syndrome, I acknowledge it for what it is, bullshit, and I remind myself that even Michelle Obama feels this way sometimes. That mantra dispels my doubts every time.
4) Let go of perfection and do it scared.
Sometimes the only way to overcome self-doubt and prove to yourself that you are capable is to try. You have to put your thoughts and feelings aside and do it scared. To do this, you need to let go of perfection. No one gets anything perfect the first time they do it. Give yourself permission to make a mistake. It's okay to have a learning curve. It's expected. Chances are, the only person in your life that demands perfection is yourself. Let that go, and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
5) Invest in yourself.
Battling imposter syndrome can be exhausting, but overcoming it can be life-changing. I still have to dedicate a significant amount of energy to my own. It's never gone forever. Life will always present new opportunities and challenges that will awaken your imposter voice. The higher the stakes and more intense your fears, the more powerful the voice becomes. Because of that, investing the time and energy to learn how to tame and quiet that voice is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I believe it's one of life's essential skills. There are many ways you can do this. Some people meditate, some people practice yoga, some people seek therapy, some pursue degrees and some work with a coach. I have done all of these!
Whatever you do, remember you're worth the investment. And if you question that, you need support overcoming your imposter syndrome more than anything.