Impostor syndrome is a psychological term for the fear of being exposed as a fraud. It’s the feeling that you’re not good enough. You may have the experience, the training, or the skills, but you’re still not sure you can get results that are 100% satisfactory. You’re afraid that people will “find out” that you’re not really an expert.
If you struggle with imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. Many people feel this way, especially when they have a lot of responsibility at work or school. But you can overcome impostor syndrome.
Here are my top tips for how to stop feeling like a fraud and start believing in yourself.
1. Understand that impostor syndrome is in your head, not reality
Here’s the good news about impostor syndrome: while the feelings may be real, the reasons for them are not. You may feel like it’s a personal failing or weakness, but it is actually a common and natural response to high-pressure situations.
One study found that 70% of high-achieving professionals experience impostor syndrome, while another study found that 90% of female undergraduate students experience it. If you feel constant fear of being “found out” as a fraud, you’re not alone. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I would guess that most people living in the developed world feel like they’re faking it on some level.
It’s important to remind yourself that what you’re feeling is normal and does not have any real reflection on your abilities.
2. Overcome impostor syndrome by keeping track of your wins
We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving our goals. We tend to focus on what we didn’t do, what we failed at, and what we could have done better. And that makes us feel bad. We get discouraged, and we give up.
The reality is that you may never feel like a professional at what you do unless you keep track of your wins along the way. When you consistently document your progress, it’s easier for you to see how much you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come.
Tracking your wins is a simple habit that can positively impact your mindset and motivation. It’s a lot easier to keep going when you can look back and see the progress you’ve made so far.
Knowing that you’re growing and improving in your work gives you the confidence boost you need to overcome impostor syndrome.
3. Create a support network
If you are an entrepreneur, freelancer, or work from home, you know how isolating it can be. You may work alone in a small room or cubicle with no one to talk to. You may have a great group of friends and family around you but feel as if they don’t understand your work.
Whether you’re just starting or you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, it’s crucial to have a support network. You can’t do everything alone. Even if you’re a self-starter, it takes a village to make your goals happen. This is especially true when you’re trying to get ahead in your career.
Your support group could include people on a similar journey as you, or people who have already achieved what you want to achieve. The most important thing is that they believe in you and your mission, genuinely want to see you succeed, and are willing to help you get there.
When you start to feel like you’re not good enough or not deserving of your success, you can overcome impostor syndrome by talking to someone in your support network. They will likely give you the encouragement that you need.
4. Take risks, say “yes” to more opportunities
Saying yes to opportunities is a big part of success. Saying yes opens doors and helps you grow personally and professionally. It’s also an important part of living a fulfilling life.
But it can be difficult to say yes when you’re dealing with impostor syndrome. You may feel like you’re not good enough to accept the opportunities that come your way. You may be afraid to start something new, to put yourself out there, to make a mistake. Afraid of being judged, of failing, of what people might think. In the end, you miss out on opportunities.
One step towards overcoming impostor syndrome is saying yes to opportunities, even if you feel that you aren’t 100% qualified for them. Just say yes, then prepare and practice. You will most often find that it’s not as scary or as difficult as you’d thought.
5. Celebrate yourself and your wins, big or small
As an entrepreneur, you have to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements. There’s no supervisor to give you a pat on the back, no “employee of the month” badge. You’re in charge, remember?
This allows imposter syndrome to creep in! Without external feedback from others to let you know you are doing a good job and are worthy of your accomplishments, you start to doubt where you are in your career.
Impostor syndrome can make you feel like your wins aren’t a big deal, so you don’t talk about them. You only plan to celebrate when you achieve that huge, impressive goal that you’ve been chasing for months or even years. ‘
You don’t realize that your small accomplishments could be awe-inspiring to others, and publicly celebrating them tells people what you’re capable of. This adds to your status as an authority in your field, and can eventually get you more clients, collaborations or speaking engagements.
Celebrating your wins is also a way to personally reaffirm yourself and your skills. So try this. Next time you make a big sale, get a stellar review, or get an award, celebrate it!
6. Cut yourself some slack
Impostor syndrome usually manifests as a voice in your head with negative thoughts like “you are not good enough for this job.” Negative thoughts can influence your stress levels. Overcoming impostor syndrome means changing how you talk to yourself in your head by talking to yourself positively. It will help you build courage and do things that will bring you lots of rewards.
Try to notice when you have negative thoughts, then challenge yourself to switch from those thoughts. You can use affirmations, which are positive statements about a goal you have. It can be as simple as, “I worked hard for this, I can do it.” Repeating affirmations can improve stress and anxiety levels because these statements help with your subconscious mind.
7. Learn, Practice, Improve
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. I don’t think you ever stop learning, and I don’t think you ever stop needing to practice what you learn.
One advantage of continually learning and practicing is you get better and better at what you do. Something that probably required a lot of thought, trial and error eventually smoothens into a seamless process that you can do in your sleep.
This mastery of skill often gives you confidence in your abilities, thereby overcoming impostor syndrome.