Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Individuals with “Impostor Syndrome” tend to suffer from a very specific self-esteem issue: The belief that they are unworthy of success.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Watch this short video to help understand how Imposture Syndrome can show up in your life. What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? – Elizabeth Cox

Imposter Syndrome is feeling like an impostor when you’re not. Like you’re a fraud and the whole world is going to find you out. I feel this a lot in my profession. I go to many of our county’s worksites and present on a variety of mental health subjects. I almost always hear in a voice in my head saying, “Why should they listen to you, you have your own mental health issues.” It’s healthy to question your own qualifications and take pause, but then you need to find a way to move forward and regain your confidence.

The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate evidence of their accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they do not deserve the success they have. 

They call their success luck or good timing, and dismiss it as others’ believing they were better, more intelligent, and more competent than they actually are. When I give a presentation, I always have the participants fill out an evaluation. The questions are, on a scale from one to five, five being the best, how do you rate the presenter? In spite of the fact the participants give me very high scores, I often feel as if I have fooled them into believing that I am an expert on certain topics.

Click here to take a test which will help you identify if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

If you can relate to this syndrome, don’t feel bad, you re in good company.

“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.” Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization

“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.” – Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.” – Kate Winslett

“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.’ ” – Maya Angelou

Kyle Eschenroeder

Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

“A psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.”

Accept that you Have Had Some Role in Your Successes

We may sometimes feel like frauds because we are “unable to internalize our successes.” I belong to a professional group, International Toastmasters, and have won many ribbons for “Best Speech”, but I just pin them on a cork board in my office and no one knows about it, unless they ask me.

I don’t take the time to give myself credit when I did do something to earn accolades. I joined this group in order to improve my leadership and communication skills, no one told me that I needed to join this group. I said yes when you could have said no.

Focus on Providing Value

I feel like a fraud when I’m concerned about myself. What will they think of me? If I fail they’ll shun me.. The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.

Before meetings that I am in charge of leading, I always have the fear of what if they make fun of me for trying to help? What if your sincerity is challenged. Even though, I have worked in the mental health field for over 20 years, I still hear that voice, “Why should anyone take advice from you?”

I have wanted to start a blog for what seems like a decade. But the voice in my head told me that I had nothing to offer those who took the time to read my posts. Then OUCH! That hurts bad. Not nearly as bad as it hurts to feel like a shell of yourself though. I remember the first I wrote vulnerably. I had gone through severe depression and had benefitted from reading about others being depressed. I felt obligated to share my story. It’s almost a year now and I still get emails telling me how helpful the letter was to them. Not one person made fun of me for that. At least to my face.

Keep a File of People Saying Nice Things About You

I just started this earlier this year and it’s been amazing. Every time someone writes that I helped them online I take a screenshot and put it in my folder. When I feel like a fraud I can go look through the stories of people I have helped. I have received praise for being brave enough to share my story and history of mental illness. People have written to me, that I am an inspiration which is in complete contrast to my belief that “no one takes my posts seriously. Those things keep me putting stuff out there. Because, honestly, it’s easy to forget that writing can do any good. Collect your wins, testimonials, whatever and then visit them when you’re feeling like a fraud.

Stop Comparing Yourself to That Person

There is no good reason for you to be reading what I’m writing. There are literally millions of bloggers out there that make a living off of what they do. I post on my blog maybe twice a month. But still, I’m writing this because I think I have something to offer. Actually, when I look at my praise file I have proof that I have something to offer.

Comparing myself to other bloggers is an easy to fall into the trap of “my blog is meaningless, look at how many thousands of subscribers they have compared to you” Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance…” and he was right on. You aren’t here to live the life of another person. You’re here to do whatever life you can. Turn Facebook off, get off Instagram, stop reading biographies of “successful” people and learn to respect your own experience. You’re not a fraud, you’re just you.

Remember: Being Wrong Doesn’t Make You a Fake

The best basketball players miss most of the shots they take. The best traders lose money on most trades. The best football teams inevitably lose. Losing is just part of the game. Don’t glorify failure, but don’t let it make you feel like you’re not a real contender either.

Nobody Belongs Here More Than You

That’s the title of Miranda July’s collection of stories—which I haven’t read, but I agree with it. Why do we feel we don’t deserve to be in the game? Because we haven’t won it yet? .

One of the most attractive qualities I find in a person is acceptance. Acceptance of themselves and acceptance of me. If you can admit that nobody belongs here more than you (while maintaining the belief that you don’t belong here any more than anyone else) you will find yourself making connections with people in powerful ways.

Realize That Nobody Knows What They Are Doing

Most startups fail. Even the ones that you hear about raising millions of dollars fail all the time. Nobody knows exactly what’s going on. There are a ton of people who will tell you they know the answers. These people are often con artists.

The world we live in is the result of a lot of brave people tinkering, failing, and succeeding once in a while. Nobody knows what’s next: some are willing to play ball in the face of uncertainty and some aren’t. You’re not an impostor for trying something that might not work. Did you know that Michael Jordon was cut from his High School basketball team or that Oprah was fired from her first reporting job because “She didn’t have the right look?”

Find One Person to Whom You Can Say, “I feel like a fraud.”

Being able to say that out loud to another person can be a huge help. Especially when they laugh at you for it—and then acknowledge that they feel the same way.

Put Yourself Out There in a Meaningful Way

Perhaps the most limiting part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit our courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put ourselves out there in a meaningful way. If this is difficult for you, try writing down a list of achievements, skills, and successes to demonstrate that you really do have concrete value to share with the world; having a really strong support system and getting ongoing feedback that validates their efforts and outcomes is important for improving confidence levels.

At the end of the day, remember this: You are here for a reason. In this job, your business, your life, you are worthy. You are better than you think you are. You are smarter than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. Remember that. And remind yourself as often as you need to.

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years working in Community mental Health. I currently Supervise the Behavioral Health Benefit for an insurance company. I speak publicly on issues that affect mental health in the workplace.

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