Am I a Fraud? — Imposter Syndrome and How We Can Overcome It (Part 2 of 2)
This is part 2 of a 2-part series, where we will explore the various ways we can overcome imposter syndrome, the research supporting these methods, and what leaders can do to help alleviate feelings of imposterism within their teams. In part 1, we defined and developed a deeper understanding of what imposter syndrome is, and what it looks like.
How can we overcome imposter syndrome?
If you want to stop feeling like an imposter, you have to stop thinking like an imposter. Our inner narrative, what we tell ourselves and how we see ourselves, can heavily impact our self-esteem and confidence, so it’s very important to be intentional with your inner narrative.
When you have thoughts which feed into these feelings of imposterism, ask yourself ‘does that thought help or hinder me?’. Identifying and reframing those thoughts to overcome the doubts you’re having can mean that, over time, you really will begin to believe the new (and true) thoughts that you do belong where you are and that you are capable and competent. This way, we minimise these feelings into an ‘imposter moment rather than an imposter life’, as eloquently summarised by Dr. Valerie Young.
People who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or competent or capable than the rest of us. It’s very good news, because it means we just have to learn to think like non-impostors.” — Dr. Valerie Young
What else can we do?
We need to remember that as humans, we have emotions, and it can be easy to confuse how we feel with the facts; you might be having a rough day at work, but that doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job. Be kind to yourself and exercise compassion on those tougher days.
Also, it’s completely ok to say, ‘I don’t know’. Not knowing the answer immediately just means you don’t know the answer yet and this is something you can look into. On that note of learning, look at failure as an opportunity to learn — we all make mistakes and it’s what we learn from that mistake and how we move forward that matters, not the failure itself.
List and acknowledge your successes, it’s easy to forget how much we achieve every day, even menial tasks can be highlighted as positive progress.
When people ask for your opinion or input, try not to second guess yourself — remember that you were hired for a reason and your input is valued. When you have imposter thoughts, remind yourself: I’m not an imposter, I earned my seat at this table, and if there was no seat for me, I brought my own stool and made space for myself at the table.
Finally, feigning confidence, despite sounding a bit ridiculous, naturally increases your confidence over time — ‘fake it till you make it’ holds some truth!
What can leaders do?
As a leader, you can help reduce feelings of imposterism in your teams by creating an inclusive and open environment where people feel heard and don’t fear judgement.
Using regular positive feedback and recognising people’s accomplishments, no matter how small, reassures your team that they are on the right track and helps draw attention to where things are going well. This helps to foster an encouraging environment where team members feel more inclined to be innovative and step out of their comfort zones. You can even ask your team to create ‘brag books’ where they list all of their own wins at work — seeing your achievements listed on paper can make a huge difference.
Finally, another simple yet incredibly valuable thing that you as a leader can do is talk about to your own mistakes. This demonstrates to your team that no matter your level of expertise or seniority, you can still fail and learn from it, reminding your team that they’re only human.
Imposter syndrome certainly permeates both our personal and professional lives; it’s something which requires our attention and energy to overcome. This journey of eliminating these feelings of fraudulence is a long and potentially arduous one. Hopefully, part 2 of this 2-part blog has helped provide some insight on how we can begin to tackle our imposter syndrome and work towards feeling much more confident in our abilities and positions, both in the workplace and at home.
‘The Impostor Test was developed to help individuals determine whether or not they have IP characteristics and, if so, to what extent they are suffering. After taking the Impostor Test, add together the numbers of the responses to each statement. If the total score is 40 or less, the respondent has few Impostor characteristics; if the score is between 41 and 60, the respondent has moderate IP experiences; a score between 61 and 80 means the respondent frequently has Impostor feelings; and a score higher than 80 means the respondent often has intense IP experiences. The higher the score, the more frequently and seriously the Impostor Phenomenon interferes in a person’s life.’