The feeling is all too familiar. Walking into a room, sitting in a conference, or participating in a meeting, and that lingering thought itches in the back of your mind whispering, “You do not belong here”. This pesky thought is what can leave us feeling out of place or even like a fraud in a room full of other people and honestly, it can be kind of scary. This is imposter syndrome (IS). It does not matter your background, skills, experiences, or even accomplishments, anyone can be its victim.
I was convinced that I was the only one in the world experiencing this phenomenon, and I often avoided situations where these feelings would emerge. However, there are ways to minimize the impact of IS and it is even possible to work towards a place where you no longer feel like you are a ‘fraud’ waiting to be discovered. By educating yourself, talking about it, and reminding yourself who you are, we can work towards a life where our own thoughts aren’t our worst enemies.
In order to minimize IS, it is important to have a better understanding of what it is and how it affects different people. Imposter syndrome shows up in different ways and there are different underlying causes of it. IS can look like self-doubt, the inability to internalize your achievements, attributing your success to external factors, and even the fear of not being able to live up to your own expectations. The more you learn how to identify imposter-like thinking, the more you can call it out and combat it.
There are a few ways of educating yourself about this topic and my personal favourite way is through books! Here are a few of my favourites:
- The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know
- The Imposter Cure
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
If reading isn’t your thing, do not worry, this topic has been covered by many. Take a few minutes to explore some helpful TedTalks. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Casey Brown: Know Your Worth and Then Ask for It
- Lou Solomon: The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome
Talk About It
It takes a lot of courage to talk about imposter syndrome. You might be afraid that by talking about it, you will be ‘discovered’ as an imposter. However, I can almost guarantee you that other people around you are experiencing similar thoughts. Bottling up all these negative feelings may result in your not saying yes to opportunities or even avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable. It is important to talk about IS.
If you have a mentor (personally or professionally), this would be a great opportunity to have an open dialogue with them about their experiences with imposter syndrome. If the individual is further in their career, they may have some ample advice on navigating the ‘adult world’ while dealing with imposter syndrome. If you do not have a mentor, a close friend, family member or a professor is another individual you can lean on to share your feelings with.
Remind Yourself Who You Are
A method I have used time and time again to help ground me is taking moments to remind myself who I am. Grab a pen and paper and take 5-10 minutes to write down all of your ‘accomplishments’ (no matter how big or small) and reflect on all the hard work you have put in to get to where you are today. Whether it is getting a good grade on a test, acing a recent interview, or even showing kindness to strangers, there are a lot of things that make you remarkable. By writing down all the things you have accomplished, you can reassure yourself of the skills that you bring to the table.
More importantly, remind yourself that you are human. The beauty of humankind is that we are not perfect and it is okay to make mistakes. Just because you fail at something does not mean you are a failure. You have to let go of the ‘perfectionist’ ideology where you beat yourself up over the smallest mistakes. Even if you do not have the same confidence as your peers, this does not mean you are not competent at your job. By reminding yourself of all the things you have accomplished will help you be kinder to yourself.
Imposter syndrome can cause anxiety and be scary sometimes. Educating yourself will help you identify these thoughts and feelings when they occur. Talking to others about them will help you understand that you are not alone in these thoughts. Finally, reminding yourself who you are will help you practice kindness towards yourself and allow you to appreciate your accomplishments.
Written by Hannah Oegema, QFLIP external brand ambassador