Imposter Syndrome

If you’ve read my previous blog on shame, you may be wondering how shame shows up in your life. One way that shame can manifest is imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is marked by feelings of inadequacy and thinking that you’ve tricked people into believing that you’re something or someone. For example, a professional may think that they don’t belong in their position, and someone is going to “figure them out.” Imposter syndrome tells us that people in our position are supposed to look or act or be a certain way, and it doesn’t align with who we are. We often question ourselves and our abilities.

So I’m feeling this, what now? There are a few ways to manage imposter syndrome.

1. Practice gratitude. This one is easy peasy. There is value in what you’re doing, which is why you feel the pressure to act, or be, a certain way. If you’re experiencing imposter syndrome in your job, it is likely a role that has purpose. Notice that you’re part of that purpose and express gratitude for being in your position.

2. Say no to perfectionism. Expecting to be perfect is asking for failure. We cannot be perfect. It’s often difficult for us to identify perfectionistic tendencies, but asking ourselves what outcome we expect can reveal them. When my clients are experiencing perfectionism, I often ask what outcome they would be satisfied with. Identifying a satisfying outcome is a key way to ward off perfectionistic thoughts. It’s also helpful to have a mantra that can be returned to when something turns out less than perfect. My mantra is “I’m human and I get to mess up.”

3. Ask for help. If there is something that you’re truly having difficulty with, ask someone that you look up to for help.

4. Accept compliments. Part of the problem with imposter syndrome is that we don’t believe in our own value. Typically when we don’t believe in our own value, we diminish our accomplishments and this can look like not being able to accept compliments. When we accept compliments, we send a message to our minds that we did something important and meaningful. In time, we are more likely to lean in to that message.

5. Reframe imposter thoughts. Some common imposter thoughts include thinking “I don’t belong” “my experience isn’t worth sharing” or “I’m not enough.” When we reframe these thoughts to things like “I belong everywhere” “the world needs my unique touch” or “I am enough no matter what my fear says” we’re better able to align with our purpose.

6. Make note of past success. I’m going to assume that you didn’t get where you are by sheer luck, no matter what your imposter thoughts say. Imagine recalling the decisions and work that it took for you to take the place that you’re in every time imposter syndrome tells you that you don’t belong. When your inner critic says, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” imagine remembering the many decisions that you made to end up where you are.

Imposter syndrome, while fairly common, is incredibly uncomfortable. It can paralyze the very work that we are made to do. This list is just a start for managing it. Imposter syndrome can invoke shame and the “shoulds” of how to act. These strategies can be beneficial in guiding you out of your head and into your life.