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How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Imposter syndrome is fuelled by self doubt and has its origins in shame.  You’re more likely to develop imposter syndrome if you:


•Grew up in an environment where you and your family were stood out from your peers.


•Moved around a lot as child.


•Were disciplined at home or school by means of shame based tactics. For example, “Other children don’t cry as much as you.”


•Were bullied via ostracisation.


•Attended school but your individual learning needs or neuro-diversity were not recognised.

Work places are a breeding ground for imposter syndrome; deadlines, work place politics, appraisals, difficult projects and tricky staff dynamics are enough to make a grown competent adult feel like a scared child who is going to get told off by the headmaster.

Imposter syndrome can be all consuming because it feels like at any moment we might be found out and, in turn, criticised and rejected.  If you struggle with Imposter Syndrome here are six strategies to help.


 
  1. Reflect on the origins of your imposter syndrome, this will help you creat some distance when you’re triggered. Once you know the story of your imposter syndrome, practice some “Back Then and Here & Now” thinking. For example – “Back then I was in a difficult position because my younger self felt different/unable to stand up to critical teachers or bullies but Here and Now I have options, if I don’t know something, if I’m struggling or even if I make a mistake that’s human, it’s ok to be human and there will be a way to sort it out.”

  2. Act the opposite of your shame and speak out. If you’re feeling stressed about a work project that isn’t going well or a deadline you’re not going to meet, break the silence, speak to colleagues, your manager or a friend. Share any of your own problem solving ideas and ask for their’s; ask what they have done in similar situations. This will help normalise the situation.

  3. Recognise your overcompensatory behaviours that might actually be adding to your Imposter Syndrome. Lots of people with Imposter Syndrome adopt perfectionistic behaviours to try and make up for where they think they are lacking and to try and cover their tracks.  Working late, always being available, saying yes to extra work, re-reading work several times to check, being preoccupied with appearance based perfectionistic ideals…

  4. Experiment with dropping some your unhelpful behaviours; try dropping just one at first to discover what happens. Quite often we begin to attach maladaptive meanings to behaviours for example, “I must re-read every email because if I make a typo the recipient will think I’m stupid and that I don’t deserve a job in this company.” By dropping the attached behaviours we begin to challenge the associated maladaptive meanings.

  5. Be mindful of idolising others, wishing you were like them and believing your life would be so much more straightforward if you had their attributes. This is a comparing and despairing thinking process and compounds Imposter Syndrome.  Instead see the humaness in others, notice the vulnerability of others and remind yourself that no-one’s perfect. Be fair on yourself and don’t go there.

  6. Learn to celebrate your accomplishments. People with Imposter Syndrome are highly skilled in the art of minimising their successes, this habit only reinforces feelings of being on the periphery.


 

Instead Of…  I’m not as good any of my colleagues if they find out how rubbish I am they’ll realise they’ve made a mistake hiring me and I’ll get reprimanded or worse.

Try…  Back then I felt not good enough and different to the other kids but actually, in the here and now, I’ve worked really hard and I deserve my place just as much as anyone else regardless of where I’ve come from.


 

Instead Of…  Avoiding the fact that you’re struggling with a piece of work or a project and staying in a lonely shame process.

Try…  Talking to a colleague, manager or friend. Let them know what’s going on, offer your solutions and ask for help.


 

Instead Of… Adopting an unrelenting perfectionistic approach which engages in predictive, extreme, inflexible, catastrophic and self critical thinking.

Try…   Practice utilising a good enough approach which recognises that it’s human to worry and to make the occasional mistake. Remember that most issues are solvable and us humans we can come back from most things.


 

Instead Of…  Excessively and obsessively, re-reading, re-drafting and over preparing. Try… Experimenting with dropping down a gear; reduce the time you spend over-compensating and discover if your worst predicted outcome comes true.


 

Instead Of…  Comparing yourself to others and despairing. Try… Tell yourself  – “Be fair and don’t go there!  Right now, I’m doing the best I can and that’s good enough.”


 

Instead Of…  Saying “Yeah, I did ok I guess but loads of things weren’t quite right.” Try… “I’m actually fairly pleased with how it went, I’ve learned lots to help with future projects.”

Good Luck


 


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