Have you ever experienced an overflow of doubt and negativity especially when you are given an opportunity or a responsibility? Ever felt like you are too introverted or felt like you are the weak link in your team? Do you keep telling yourself that you don’t deserve or struggle with doubts like What if I cannot do this? What if I mess up? If you do, you might probably have impostor syndrome and know that you are not alone.
A study found that seventy percent of working professionals experience impostor syndrome at least once in their career. Everyone grapples with self-doubt once in a while, even the most successful.
A little self-doubt is normal and is healthy as it prevents us from crossing the fine line between confidence and overconfidence. But if you constantly experience feelings of unworthiness, feel inadequate or not as capable as your peers even when you are smart, skilled and capable, you probably might be having an extra dose of it.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor RooseveltTweet
Today’s ever changing work environments require one to be more vulnerable and to be open to new roles or responsibilities. Striving for perfection at all costs or pushing yourself too hard or avoiding challenges for fear of not being good enough can negatively impact your work efficiency.
If you are always self-sabotaging or hesitant to put your ideas forward or living on edge with the fear that you may not be successful at what you are doing, then you hold yourself back and remain stuck. Such feelings can seriously damage your confidence. When you doubt yourself, you feel like everyone else is more capable or more deserving than you are. The more you think you aren’t enough or less deserving, the less will be your confidence in your work and personal relationships. And so will be your willingness to contribute into the relationships you care about.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
It is a pattern of thinking that makes you doubt your accomplishments and makes you fear of being exposed as not deserving enough or good enough, even though when your performance is up to the mark. This results in a perpetuating fear of being exposed as a fraud inspite of external evidence of your competence. Where others receive positive feedback that makes them feel good about themselves and confident in their ability, a person with this syndrome perceives it as an overestimation of his/her abilities rather than a positive feedback. Here is what impostor syndrome further linked to.
Perfectionism. If you pride yourself as a high performer or the one who produces high calibre of work, or want hundred percent from any project or assignment, then you tend to always micromanage. You fear that things won’t be done well if you aren’t involved. Being driven to produce flawless behaviour and results, you tend to set high standards which makes it hard for you to delegate. Perfectionism makes you overcritical of your’s or others’ performance.
Fixed mindset. Fixed mindset makes you believe that people who are smart or those who excel at everything are born talented. Attributing your skills or knowledge as fixed increases feelings of impostor syndrome. This might result in questioning your own competency when faced with challenges or setbacks. Believing that you are born with only certain amount of intelligence makes you struggle with certain roles and responsibilities.
Being an expert. People who strive for more in everything, more knowledge, more experience, and more success tend to feel they’ve tricked their way into their position. Even if they think they have expertise in their field, they think they don’t have enough or don’t deserve it. They strive to be perfect because they want to please others. They feel like an impostor or feel they aren’t good enough because there is always someone better.
Rugged individualism. People who are soloists believe they can do everything themselves and prefer to do things without asking for help. They believe asking others is a sign of weakness and don’t want to look incapable by asking for assistance. This is further tied to a feeling of not belonging to a group and this can lead to exhibiting feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem when they are inclined in the crowd.
The superwoman/ man complex. These are the people with a can-do attitude who are prone to take on more responsibility. They often juggle many tasks at once, even to the point of over exhaustion and have a hard time saying no. If you have superwoman/man complex, you feel the need to prove yourself and feel like you constantly need to earn rewards.
The signs of Impostor Syndrome
We often overlook the signs of impostor syndrome that we experience in our day-to-day lives. These feelings are often self-perpetuating and pervasive in nature. Internally feeling that you’re not experienced or qualified enough to justify being in certain position creates fear of being discovered as fake.
The more skilled you are, the more likely that you may think you are faking it. In fact, research has revealed that women face impostor syndrome more frequently than men because of family and social constructs of what they should be. Recognising the signs can be the first step in effectively breaking the cycle of impostor syndrome. Some of the signs can be,
- Having a familiar identity like a ’sensitive’ label or an ’ego’ label.
- Avoiding expressing confidence.
- Undermining your effort and hard work instead giving credit to luck and other external factors.
- Difficulty in accepting praise
- Holding yourself to high standards.
- Constant fear of failure or inadequacy.
How it manifests in your personal or work life
Felling like an impostor frequently can often prove to be counterproductive and is damaging to your confidence, balance and emotional strength. If you are spending too much time in self-doubt, it leads to well-being issues such as depression, anxiety or frustration related to feelings of inability to meet your self-imposed standards of achievement and low or lack of confidence and depression. Always driven by feeling of unworthiness leads to decreased satisfaction with work, fear of failure and you feel stressed to speak up or put your ideas forward. It also leads to downplaying your contributions and achievements.
Impostor syndrome causes us to overthink and second-guess every situation as it prevents our presence in the moment. It makes us over-fixate on how others are judging us or we find ourselves mentally scattered reviewing our previous steps. Frequent self-monitoring can prevent us from listening to others because we are distracted by our inner monologue. This makes it more challenging to build trust and connection required for building personal or professional relationships.
A chronic sense of unworthiness can reduce your motivation thereby holding you back from pursuing your goals. We start to question our abilities and wonder if we are ever set out for the task or opportunity before you. Relying on external validation and negative comparisons, you can’t trust your instincts in making well-informed decisions. Constant feelings of inadequacy further manifest into feelings of loneliness or alienation.
So, How to overcome your Impostor Syndrome
Our level of confidence depends on our environment, situations and emotions. It is natural that when you feel unsure about something, self-doubt creeps in. But the impostors believe that they should feel at their best all the time, working hard and performing successfully in all areas.The key is to be self-aware of your self-sabotaging thought patterns and where they are coming from. While people may say or do things which might feed your negative beliefs, how you respond mentally and emotionally is up to you entirely. Your response is what helps perpetuate it. Here are some ways to respond better to your inner monologue.
Respond rather than react
If your inner monologue is overly critical and negative or self-deprecating, instead of suppressing those thoughts, learn to respond rather than react. Reactions are instantaneous and are often driven by beliefs, biases and prejudices. Since reactions serve as defence mechanisms and are an all-or-nothing experience, they are disempowering and limiting in nature. Responses, however, are based on conscious mind and they direct us to consider long-term effects.
Just because your inner monologue makes you feel like an impostor, it doesn’t mean you have to be one. Instead of giving into your frequent thoughts of worthlessness, question yourself as to why you are feeling that way, what is the evidence and where your thoughts are coming from. This helps you realise that majority of your self-beliefs and doubts are not only incorrect but are also keeping you stuck.
Reframe your language and self-talk
Your self-talk can manifest itself in the language you use when articulating your ideas. Using words like ‘might’ and ‘perhaps’ suggest that you aren’t confident in asserting your ideas. Ask yourself, Is the real reason why I feel like an impostor related to my abilities or is it because of my insecurities? Am I making a positive difference to what I do? Am I taking effective decisions in my area of responsibility?
Remind yourself that your opinions are valid and reframe your language to more assertive phrases. Pay attention to your self-talk and use positive affirmations or your own personalised phrase that helps you break out of impostor thought patterns. Choose your safe space or a mental image to visualise and associate with your chosen affirmations.
Part of breaking the impostor thought patterns is to uncover the issues that make you feel insecure or not deserving. Facing these issues head-on can be a positive way to tackle them. This will allow you to make changes to your negative inner monologue. A good way to motivate yourself is to talk to yourself in second person or to write down your impostor thoughts or most ridiculous beliefs or all the things about you that make you feel like a fraud. Externalising them can help you put them into perspective and feel better about them.
If you find your own success or others’ praise uncomfortable, do some self reflection to explore further. Where do they emerge from? How would you describe those feelings? and What it means to your work and personal life. The more you are aware of your insecurities, the more will be your ability to deal with them constructively.
Say ’yes’ to new opportunities
One of the reasons why we feel not good enough is because we can’t leverage our talents and opportunities properly. It is common for people with imposter syndrome to feel there’s someone else knows more than they do, or can do it better than they do. This also results in incorrectly attributing success to luck. Make informed decisions when you are presented with new opportunities. Humility in your hard work and accomplishments is a good quality. But sometimes, simply being good at something can cause you to discount its value. It is all about finding a healthy balance between your abilities, experience and intuitive way of doing things.
Ask yourself, Do I have sufficient knowledge and understanding of my area to make most of the new opportunity? Be open to new possibilities, receiving praise, rewards and positive feedback. It is natural to be vulnerable to feelings of insecurity, self-doubt and failure. Have faith in your ability to succeed and thrive. Question your assumptions as to how logical and true are your feelings and what is the evidence against it instead of blindly believing those internal scripts as truth.
Let go of your perfectionism
While perfectionism is helpful in certain contexts, it feeds into your impostor feelings. It is important to remember that not only can one do everything perfectly, but holding yourself to high standards can keep you in perpetuating cycle of self-sabotage. Don’t try to be perfect, nobody else is. Prioritise action over perfection. While striving for perfection is good, it is also important to be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself when an inevitable mistake happens and ask yourself as to what you can learn from it to help you to be better next time. Perfectionist attitude is what can lead to negative self-talk that can make you highly anxious and stressful. Practice embracing your imperfections and set realistic goals or expectations.
Build your strengths
Since we as human beings are prone to negativity bias, we tend to focus more on our weaknesses and negative beliefs. As a result, we completely undermine our strengths. Whereas focusing on our strengths gives more energy and resilience to overcome challenges in both personal or professional life.
We often are so aware of all the things we need to improve and forget the skills and strengths we possess. Developing a realistic sense of your strengths by making a list of all the things you are good at. Appreciate all the things you’ve truly achieved in life that have helped you become the person you are today. This helps you transform your impostor feeling that it wasn’t luck that is responsible but it was the sum of all your hard work.
Adopt growth mindset
Being an impostor, there is a tendency to see everyone around as achieving success while you are the only one failing. Sometimes parental influence fosters fixed mindset. This leads to the belief that you are born with only certain amount of intelligence. Try cultivating a growth mindset to reframe your impostor feelings. When you have a growth mindset, you believe in hard work and effort required toward your goals rather than believing that people are born with skills. Belief that skills and intellect are the result of effort and not pre-determined will not let you feel like an imposter for long. When you feel that you can grow, each day can be a chance to gain new knowledge to make most of the opportunities.
Do you ever feel you don’t deserve your achievements or new opportunities?
Do you ever worry that you are an intellectual fake or an impostor?
What is the best way you have found to deal with your feelings of self-doubt and insecurities?
Is your inner monologue self-sabotaging or motivating?
How often do you question your inner monologue’s assertions of impostor feelings?
What do you attribute your success to — just luck or to your hard work or abilities?
Do you think others overvalue your success?
How self-aware are you of your strengths or weaknesses?
Impostor feelings doesn’t just disappear as you reach certain point in your career or when you accomplish your goals. It just shape-shifts as your bar for success keeps rising. Because your success makes the fear of failing much more threatening. The solution is not to try and get rid of it, instead is to get good at turning your fear of not being good enough as a motivational tool to keep moving forward.
It is important to remember that when we are on a lifelong journey of learning, we will always have doubts that will have to be managed. While there is no one right approach to combat such feelings, you can use the above mentioned ways to respond better to your inner monologue to perform at your best. So, next time you are worried about being an impostor, focus more on what you know you can do, what you want to learn rather than concentrating on what you may find you can’t do.
Click here for famous quotes on Impostor Syndrome
Subscribe to the blog below to stay updated with the latest posts.