Coping with Imposter Syndrome

5 Steps to Cope With Imposter Syndrome

9-Jun 2021
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In the last few years, there’s been a lot of discussion about imposter syndrome and how it affects us both at work and in our personal lives. Constantly feeling like a fraud or that you haven’t “earned” your place in life can be a serious impediment to success. 

According to recent research, those feelings are fairly common. A 2019 review of multiple studies on imposter syndrome found that up to 82% of people have thought “I’m a fraud” or “I’m not good enough” at some point in their lives!


What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is characterized by feelings of self-doubt and/or incompetence that persist despite education, experience, or accomplishments. People who experience it can be at the top of their professional game and still feel like a failure.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome‌

Because the syndrome persists despite accomplishments, education, or experience, “success” as it’s conventionally defined isn’t always the answer to banishing imposter syndrome. Even if others around you praise your achievements, you write them off as flukes or luck.

Thankfully, you don’t have to continue suffering from extreme imposter syndrome. There are ways to cope. Try these methods and see which of them works for you.

  1. Become Aware of It
  2. Realize You Aren't Alone
  3. Learn to Treat Yourself Well
  4. Keep Track of Your Success
  5. Talk About it With Someone You Trust

1. Become Aware of It‌

As with most problems, the first step in coping with imposter syndrome is awareness. You need to recognize the thoughts and feelings you’re having as imposter syndrome before you can get to the “why” behind them. 

We often repress or overlook the signs of imposter syndrome when they crop up in our everyday lives. If you have some of the following thoughts, take a step back and evaluate where they’re coming from: 

  • You feel like you just “got lucky,” even when you prepared well and worked hard to get where you are.
  • Accepting praise is hard for you.
  • You apologize in situations where you did nothing wrong.
  • Fear of failure paralyzes you. 
  • You don’t express confidence openly because you’re afraid of putting others off.
  • You’re convinced that you aren’t “enough.”

‌Does this sound like you? Learn to pay attention to how you perceive yourself. How do you talk about yourself with others? What’s your internal monologue like? 

Learn to examine thoughts of inadequacy with objective detachment. It’ll be difficult at first, but it will eventually help you separate your feelings from the facts.

2. Realize You Aren’t Alone‌

Imposter syndrome can feel very isolating, and you may come to believe nobody else understands what you’re going through. But many other people are struggling with the same thing. 

The poet, author, and activist Maya Angelou describes it like this: 

"I have written eleven books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’" 

If someone like her struggled with imposter syndrome and still achieved so much, you can do it, too. She didn’t let it stop her and you don’t have to either!

3. Learn to Treat Yourself Well‌

This can become easier with practice. Learning to recognize your inner critic will help you contradict it. If you get into the habit of thinking positively and continue it for long enough, you can begin to rewrite your internal monologue. 

Dr. Suzanne Imes, one of the people who first put a name to imposter syndrome, put it this way

“Have self-compassion. Be self-soothing. Say, I'm going to do OK. I did OK last time. I know enough about this. I don't have to be perfect ... if you can learn that you don't have to be perfect, you can just be good.”

Letting go of perfectionistic tendencies is an essential part of coping with imposter syndrome. Challenge doubts when they come up in your mind. Ask yourself: 

  • Are there actually any logical reasons for these doubts?
  • What evidence supports this belief that I can’t do this/am not good enough?
  • What facts contradict the belief that I’m an imposter?

‌‌For example, if you consistently get praised for your hard work and skill, it’s highly improbable that the people doing it just pity you or that you keep getting lucky.

4. Keep Track of Your Successes‌

Keeping a “wins” file with measurable proof of your successes can provide a supply of facts to combat your inner critic. Try creating a private file on your personal computer for this purpose.

How you track your wins is up to you and will depend on your industry, but here are a few examples:

  • A writer’s prestigious publication or emails from readers
  • A marketing specialist’s successful campaign for a big client 
  • A project manager hitting or exceeding every deliverable on a critical sprint
  • A support technician getting consistent positive customer reviews

No matter the industry, what’s important is that you track these successes to look back on later as evidence. You can do this in both your work and your personal life. Comments from friends or family that lift you up can be just as important as work metrics. 

5. Talk About It With Someone You Trust‌

Having an outside perspective is a massive benefit when dealing with something like imposter syndrome. If you have a professional mentor, they might be a good person to talk with about your feelings of inadequacy at work. A trusted friend or therapist can be a sounding board for challenges in your personal life. 

A professional mentor or even a manager can help provide candid insight into struggles with imposter syndrome, and share what they’ve done to get past it. Hubspot Social Media Community Manager Krystal Wu says she was able to find help through mentorship: 

"When I put myself out there to find people in roles similar to mine, attended events to learn more about my industry, and learned from my mentor, it helped me gain confidence in my career. The more confidence and education I had the more the imposter syndrome started to fade."

Tackling Imposter Syndrome‌

Living with negative chatter in our heads isn’t easy. And it isn’t easy to get rid of. But you can cope with it, redirect it, and live with it even if it doesn’t completely go away.

Carl Richards, financial analyst and former writer for the New York Times, learned to see his imposter syndrome as a friend. After years of dealing with it, when the negative thoughts show up, he just says: 

“Welcome back, old friend. I’m glad you’re here. Now, let’s get to work.”

If you’d like to explore ways to boost productivity and log more entries in that “wins” folder, reach out to us and find out what Accelo can do for you.

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