Have you ever felt like a fraud?
Or, have you thought to yourself, “They are going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing?”
Even after constant positive feedback or recognition, I have felt like I was in way over my head in graduate school, throughout my career working in higher education and even during family circumstances. It’s an awful feeling isn’t it? The times I chose not to speak up at a meeting, share an idea, or simply believe I am of value to an organization or in a relationship are too many to count. (Photo taken from career digressions.com)
I don’t wish this feeling on anyone, but have great news…You can take control of the situation. Imposter Syndrome does not have to hold you back or make you second-guess your value.
I like to think of Imposter Syndrome as a car when it is hydroplaning or sliding on ice. As the driver, we can choose to panic and hit the brakes , or we can recognize what is happening and ease into the direction we want to go in effort to regain control. (Photo taken from http://www.wikihow.com)
Imposter Syndrome can happen to any of us and is most likely going to make an appearance every so often. The more successful you are, the more likely Imposter Syndrome will visit. Included below are three actions you can take to regain control when Imposter Syndrome decides to show up.
1. Repeat “There is no such thing as perfect.”
Accept that you and no one else are perfect. You and no one else is immune to life-long learning. Accept what others might be saying and choose to grow. It could be true that you don’t have the most knowledge about one topic of twenty, maybe your public speaking skills could improve, or maybe you (gasp) made a mistake–we are all HUMAN and are always learning. Most importantly, accept that you deserve your current success. You did something to get you where you are.
2. Get it out in the open
Talk about it! Getting Imposter Syndrome out in the open with others (friends, co-workers, family) will allow you to become more comfortable with Imposter Syndrome merely existing. You will experience connection with others and gain comfort when learning about similar struggles with our dear friend.
3. Reshape your thinking
Part 1–Try an experiment. Spend ten minutes writing or typing all your “fraud” thoughts about yourself. Remember this is just for you. Don’t hold back. Even if it doesn’t make sense as you are writing it, write it anyway. Now review what you wrote. Just getting some of your thoughts out will help you realize how untrue they may just be. To continue this experiment, allow yourself one month to collect every positive statement someone has said to or about you. If in an email, print it out. If written, save it. If someone vocalizes this to you, write it down. Put all your positive statements in an accessible space.
Once finished, read your positive statements. Next, read your “fraud” thoughts. You’ll gain more clarity about reality vs. your inner thoughts. I have full confidence you’ll have more confidence in yourself after this experiment. Tip: Continue to collect positive statements you receive from others and keep them in one space. When you need a pick-me-up, visit your positive space.
Part 2–As ironic as it is, using the “Fake it until you make it” approach to change your thinking actually can work. Repeating thoughts that counteract what you have recognized as your “fraud” thoughts even if you don’t currently believe them to be true can help increase your confidence during a time when you are feeling like an imposter. Anecdotally, I have used this method when preparing for interviews or asking for a promotion/raise (i.e. “I am a badass, I know what I’m doing, I am a force to be reckoned with”), getting ready to make a presentation (i.e. “No one is perfect, I got this, be you”), or when I have prepared for past court hearings petitioning for what I believe to be just (“be calm, rise above, I’m a powerhouse). Dr. Valerie Young, expert on Imposter Syndrome, speaks to reframing your thinking in her TED talk on Thinking your way out of imposter syndrome.
You do YOU!