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What is Imposter Syndrome and 4 ways to overcome it


This concise guide outlines what is imposter syndrome, why it happens, and four ways you can overcome imposter symdrome with savvy strategies.

What is imposter syndrome

It’s a feeling most of us know well. Your colleagues commend you after a presentation you delivered and the first thing that comes to your mind is “One day they’re going to find out I’m not as great as they think I am.” Or being offered a promotion, and thinking to yourself “How long before they see that I actually don’t deserve this – I’m such a fraud”.

Each of you may have your own version of this, but the gist of it is that you feel like a fraud. That’s what imposter syndrome is. And women tend to feel it more than men – often because we are wired to not think of ourselves as leaders, innovators, business warriors… the kinds of self-imagery men absorb on the sports fields from toddler stage.

4 ways to overcome imposter syndrome

You might be relieved to know that most successful women admit to suffering from imposter syndrome. Women like Tina Fey, Emma Watson, and Maya Angelou — to name just a few. But it can be overcome, with some self-assessment and savvy strategies.

  • Stop trying to prove something

Imposter syndrome is a fear of being ‘found out’ by others to not be of the standard they think you are. It is essentially a fear of what others will think of us. It’s not uncommon for women to have the urge to ‘prove’ that we are good enough, that we are capable, that we can do things better than men. Our ambition is driven by trying to prove something to the world, and therefore we often worry about how the world perceives us.

The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to stop trying to prove that you’re worthy. Do a great job on that report – not because you have to prove yourself to your boss. Do it because you value great work. Do it because you have integrity. Do it because great work matters.

When you’re less driven by the need to prove something, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing a lot more and find yourself less concerned about what people think.

  • Realize nobody knows what they’re doing

I remember dealing with a work issue, and approaching my VP to ask for her advice. “Look”, she said, “I don’t have all the answers. My guess is as good as yours. In fact, you might have a better solution given you’re much closer to the issue”.

The big secret that no one ever tells you is this: nobody really knows what they’re doing. Steve Jobs didn’t know what he was doing when he took calligraphy classes. He had no idea where he was going with Apple. Neither did Bill Gates, or the founders of Airbnb.

In fact, most people probably feel like a fraud and are equally afraid of being ‘found out’. So there’s really nothing you need to worry about.

  • Pay less attention to the imposter syndrome voice in your head

Do you ever wake up and genuinely think “I’m beautiful, smart, and capable. My body is perfect the way it is. I can achieve anything I want.”

I’m going to take a wild guess and say … no, you don’t. In fact most of us wake up thinking the opposite of that. If we really sit and listen to our thoughts, we’ll realize that they’re mostly negative. Concerns. Fears. Insecurities.

Key to overcoming imposter syndrome is paying less attention to your thoughts, or the voice inside your head. The best way to do that is to have your attention on what’s going in the outside world, rather than what’s going on inside your head.

  • Track not only your achievements, but also your progress

Women who suffer from imposter syndrome are mainly high achievers. We set high standards for ourselves, and often see ourselves falling short of these standards. That’s when we start seeing ourselves as a failure and a fraud. A great way to manage this is to keep track of your progress. Rather than constantly beating yourself up for not having met your goals, set small milestones that you can celebrate on a regular basis. Experience ‘winning’ every time you surpass these milestones.

You are not an imposter. You are somebody who is on a continual, never-ending learning curve; growing, reaching and achieving – all on the road to serious success.

About Nimarta Srinarula

Nimarta is a brand and marketing specialist, writer, filmmaker, and founder of Creategooder -- an organization whose mission is to inspire positive change through creativity. Passionate about empowering people to create a life they love, Nimarta is also a head coach in Landmark Worldwide's leadership program. She loves dogs, all-day breakfasts, and Jeanette Winterson. She spends her spare time running a relationship blog and thinking up new creative projects to endeavor.

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