You’ve heard the words “imposter syndrome” thrown around here and there. You may have heard marginalized folks describe feeling it or maybe you have heard about it in a Ted Talk.
It’s a term that is more commonly getting used in our culture and I am glad to see this issue getting discussed more openly. Imposter syndrome is simply a term to describe that feeling that others always know more than you and deserve what they have, while you only got here by “luck” or “mistake”. That someday someone will find you out, that you don’t belong. These feelings are particularly common in underrepresented achievers (women, people of color and LGBTQ folks in high pressure fields) who have gotten messages their whole lives that they don’t belong.
If you struggle with these feelings, you may notice that it’s hard for you to take in positive feedback from others and truly believe it. This is especially hard for perfectionists, who often feel that they could always be “doing more / better” which reinforces those same messages they have gotten from society that they are never enough. Yet the reality is, you have amazing strengths and knowledge. Some of that knowledge is unique to you and some of it overlaps with what others around you know. Others around you also may bring some unique knowledge that you aren’t familiar with. Together you can make a fantastic team and build on each other strengths. So let’s help you find some ways to stay connected with your awesomeness and shed that imposter syndrome.
My top 6 favorite tips to quiet imposter syndrome:
1. Challenge yourself to accept positive feedback. Next time someone compliments you on your work say “thank you” and take the feedback in. Even if it’s uncomfortable, just sit with it. Don’t push it away. When you push away positive feedback and only accept negative feedback, that reinforces the feelings of being an imposter. To begin to see yourself differently, you need to begin to think about yourself differently. Taking in the positive way others view you can be an important first step.
2. Develop a mantra (or “self-talk” as we call it in psychology) you can repeat to yourself when you need to call up your resilience. Repeat it to yourself over and over before going into a difficult situation. Or even practice it every morning before you go into work. This helps change the way you think and feel about yourself over time, Consider the following mantras:
- “I belong here”
- “I am brave”
- “I deserve to be myself”
- “I bring my unique strengths to the table”
- “It’s okay to still be learning and growing”
3. Develop a more accurate, balanced view of both your strengths and areas for growth. This helps you to not just focus on your perceived deficits and to help you develop a more well-rounded view of yourself. Make a list of your strengths and growth areas – you can include both professional and personal qualities on this list. I also recommend getting feedback from trusted colleagues, friends, and family. Continually add to this list as you gain new insights about yourself. Pro tip: If you want to dive deeper in to identifying your strengths consider getting the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book for a personalized assessment and action steps.
4. Choose a quote that resonates with you. Helps you feel hope when you are down. Feels like a guiding light when you are lost. One I love is, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” – Audre Lorde. Keep your chosen quote somewhere where you can easily see it to call upon whenever you need it. Consider framing it on your desk. Or use it as the Home Screen on your phone.
5. Find a picture of someone who inspires you, who shares your identities. Who reminds you that others have gone before you and you can do it too. You belong here. Keep that picture on your phone background, computer wallpaper, or in your planner. Put it somewhere you can see it everyday to bring your strength.
6. Connect with community of other folks who share your identities in your field. Create space to get to know each other, connect, and share experiences. Remind each other of your strengths and share strategies you’ve used to deal with the tough stuff. If your work doesn’t have a formal group you can join for this, consider developing an informal monthly get-together like a book club or happy hour.
BONUS TIP: Here’s a little bonus tip for those of you who are music lovers like me, this one may not fit for everyone, but for some people it can be a big game changer. Discover your empowerment song. One that speaks to your heart and connects you to your strength. Listen to it any time that imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. A personal favorite of mine is “This Is Me” from the musical “The Greatest Showman”. (Yes, yes, I do love musicals. I know, it’s dorky, but there is lots of secret empowerment music hiding out there). Check it out and see if it sparks any thoughts about what is a great empowerment song for you.
If you’d like more support with quieting imposter syndrome, please reach out to me or a therapist near you to schedule an appointment.