Imposter syndrome has been in the spotlight for the past few years as unfortunately, it is an experience that many people relate to. Imposter syndrome is defined as the “psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. This feeling persists despite any reassurance or disproof of this feeling.
The term was coined by Pauline R. Clance, and Suzanne A. Imes in an article published in 1978. It was originally believed to be experienced by high-achieving women in the US, but individuals from all demographics have been able to relate to this phenomenon since. It has been found to be particularly rampant in the workplace, with up to 82% of people saying they have experienced these feelings.
Experiencing imposter syndrome over long periods of time can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and career burnout. Working to tackle feelings of imposter syndrome is important for our long-term mental health. But it can be difficult, so we at The Inclusion Post have brought together 5 ways that you can start dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome today.
1. Recognise Your Negative Thinking
The first step to recovery is acknowledgement. Taking the time to recognise and take note of what your negative thoughts are and what causes them to occur is the best way to try and tackle them. For good! You can do this by talking to someone you trust when you feel those feelings, or even by writing them down. This allows you to detach from negative feelings and can make them less overwhelming. As a result, you give yourself the opportunity to challenge that negative thinking and ask yourself if what you’re thinking is even true.
2. Use Affirmations
After recognising your negative thoughts, the next step is reframing these thoughts. This can be done by using positive affirmations. It may feel silly at first but using affirmations to change your mindset has been scientifically proven to work. Studies such as Koole et al.’s (1999) have found that self-affirmation can lower stress and rumination, and overall can increase resilience when facing difficulties. You can start using affirmations by repeating phrases such as “I am an asset to my team” in the mirror to yourself in the mornings, or even by getting a journal and regularly noting down these affirmations. As time passes, you will start to believe it, and this can reduce the negative feelings that come with imposter syndrome.
3. Make Note of Your Wins
Affirming yourself is best supported by facts about yourself. Key characteristics of imposter syndrome are not giving yourself credit for your success and the inability to recognise your own skills. To deal with imposter syndrome, you have to work to challenge your negative thinking. Taking the time out to think about your accomplishments – big or small – and rewarding yourself for it in some way is a great way to focus on the fact that you are competent and to validate your skills. If you can’t seem to think of any successes, think back to your good performances recently at work. More likely than not, you’ve been doing much better than you think.
4. Turn to Others for Support
Asking for help when you need is nothing to be ashamed of. But for someone with imposter syndrome it will feel like it definitely is. This is because they link competence with getting things done on their own, so asking for help is like an admission of incompetence. Not asking, however can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. Being able to turn to others to affirm you, offer support and validate your strengths can do wonders! And may help you realise that thoughts that seemed so daunting are actually not true. You might even find out that others feel the same! So many people struggle with imposter syndrome and understanding that it is common can be helpful in overcoming it.
5. Put Yourself Out There
After doing the steps above, you should be a few steps closer to overcoming the feelings of imposter syndrome. Once you feel ready, the next step is saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities. When you are in a good headspace, try to take on something you may have not done before. Doing this will allow you to challenge thoughts of self-sabotage. As you will come to find that you can do so much more than you imagined you could. This can help with reframing your negative thoughts in the long run, as realising how competent you are will affirm you and challenge thoughts that tell you that you aren’t worthy. And this doesn’t need to be a big task either. Participating in something new once a month can gradually build your confidence without you even realising.
Taking the time out to actively tackle imposter syndrome is no easy feat. Despite the fact that such large percentages of people struggle with feelings of imposter syndrome, not many are able to overcome it. Taking the first step to acknowledge your negative framework and challenging it is very powerful for your mental health. – But don’t be discouraged if it takes time. Remember that bettering yourself is a marathon, not a sprint.
For more on imposter syndrome, you can watch our video below. Alternatively for encouragement and tips on improving your mental health, take a moment to read our article on building mental resilience.