10 Ways To Get Over Imposter Syndrome
When I first quit my 9-5 job and officially transitioned to running Uncustomary full-time, I struggled with what to say when I met new people who asked me what I did for a living. After all, in American (and many other) culture, it’s one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone (which should really be shifted, I mean, we are definitely more than how we make money — but a topic for another time). I would tell them I used to work at a psych rehab and I just quit my job to work for myself. I never said I was a writer, a blogger, a speaker, a Merriment Maker. It felt weird, wrong, and fraudulent. I hadn’t “proved” myself yet, I was “just starting”, so I needed to do quite a bit of explaining before I “earned” those titles. Or so I thought.
I hear about people struggling with this same issue in so many different ways every single day. It comes from everyone from people in my personal social circles to people I follow online with tens of thousands of followers and multiple international book deals. I constantly hear people worrying they aren’t doing a good enough job, that they didn’t earn where they’re at, that they don’t know enough about what they’re talking about to be talking about it, that their current circumstances are some kind of fluke, or just that they need to add some disclaimer or qualifiers to their job titles or passions. Why do we do this?
Back in 1978, two psychologists discovered Imposter Syndrome. They thought it was only prevalent in women, but since then we’ve learned it exists regardless of gender, age, education level, etc. It has been suggested that 70% of all people will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives in some way or another. That’s crazy! Why are we all so insecure and doubting ourselves and our abilities when we’re all so clearly awesome?!
A great definition of Imposter Syndrome is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their their accomplishments”. (Source.) Simple and direct, but damn! We can’t process the bad ass things we’ve done because we haven’t developed the self-confidence and love for ourselves needed to simply recognize that we did a good job? This needs to change!!
If you think you’re immune to Imposter Syndrome, you may be right, but my personal experience with it is not the only way it can manifest. Let me share a few other ways it can show up in your life without you realizing it:
- Giving yourself ridiculous expectations, so if you don’t get something right on the first try or very easily, you beat yourself up and feel shame
- Avoid doing new things or things that might challenge you because you’re worried you won’t ace it
- Refusing to delegate tasks because you need to do everything yourself, otherwise it won’t be done perfectly
- Assuming when you get a great job or new opportunity, it’s because of a fluke like there wasn’t anyone else who applied, etc.
- If you have a bad day, or your work isn’t at 100% perfection, you can’t give yourself a break, because you need to be perfect 24/7
- Refusing help with anything, not because you’re independent, but because that would show weakness and/or someone else’s involvement might mess up the end result
- Feeling like you still don’t know “enough” about the thing you’re passionate about or paid to do, despite your experience and studies
- Feeling like you still haven’t earned the title you’ve been given
- Working way harder than anyone else in your group/team and/or getting really stressed out when you are out of work and finally have free time because you base your worth on productivity/business
See? It can come up in a bunch of different ways. Do any of these sound like you? If so, you might be part of the 70% of the population dealing with feeling like a fraud, AKA dealing with Imposter Syndrome. So what do we do about it? Here are 10 ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome. (PS – Stick around till the end of the post to get your free Imposter Syndrome 101 worksheet!)
10 Ways To Get Over Imposter Syndrome
1. Dress for the job you want or already have, in every sense of the metaphor. So when someone asks you what you do, don’t give them the run-around explanation, don’t disclaim what you do with “I’m just an amateur”, or start it with “I hope to be…”. No. What are you? Tell them. You say, “I am a ____.” Stare them dead in the eyes and say it. Stare yourself in the mirror and say it. Over and over. The more you say it, the easier it will be to say. It will be uncomfortable at first, but like anything, the more you sit with your uncomfort and anxiety about something, the less power it eventually holds over you. And remember, you are that thing you’re afraid to tell people you are.
I was a writer before I published my book. Do people take me more seriously now that I’m published? Yes. But that’s their issue, not mine. And your accomplishments are valid, no matter where you are on your journey. You can throw those in, if someone inquires! If I told someone I was a writer before I published my book and they asked what I wrote, I could reply with, “Well, I have been blogging since I was in high school, but I started my current blog in 2012 and have been creating content for that and other publications consistently since then. I’ve honestly been writing since I can remember. I am also currently working on an outline for a book I’m really passionate about.” That’s a legit answer.
2. Work on your self-confidence and self-love. Constantly. Consistently. It’s an ongoing, non-linear journey. But if we’re feeling fraudulent about something we already do, it’s coming from a place of insecurity and a lack of confidence, so that’s a call to action! Here are some tips on being more confident. You can also check out my e-course on self-love.
3. Keep an ongoing list of your accomplishments. At the end of every year, I like to go back and list all the things I did that year. The list is often much different than I anticipated it looking twelve months prior, because life changes, our minds change, and goals shift. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t still do great things! It doesn’t mean the reason I didn’t get to cross off one goal is because I was too busy overcoming adversity! That counts as an accomplishment. Write it all down. And keep an ongoing log. It’s easy for me to make a yearly list because I journal every day, but if you don’t journal, then it might be easier for you to update your list with every accomplishment as it happens (and it’s probably better, because it’s a more consistent reminder).
4. Keep a second ongoing file of nice things people say about you. This can be a comment someone left on a social media status, something someone said to you in person, or something someone wrote in a high school yearbook twenty years ago. It all counts. Again, write it down! And visit the file when you’re doubting yourself. It’s an instant mood boost! Tip: Ask for nice things! If you run a business, reach out to people and ask for reviews/testimonials. Whether or not you run a business, reach out to your friends and ask them how they would describe you. You can be vulnerable and honest and say you’re struggling with your self-confidence and this is an exercise you were instructed to do, and could they help you out with bright shiny words? One time, when my friend was going through a rough period, I reached out to dozens of her friends, and asked them to send me some sentences about what they loved about her. It remains one of her favorite gifts she’s ever received, and she uses it when she’s feeling down.
5. Start a conversation with someone you trust about Imposter Syndrome and where you feel like a fraud in your life. Ask them if they’ve ever felt that way, and really open up about your experiences and feelings. You’ll probably end up comforting, supporting, and complimenting each other. At the very least, you will realize you are certainly not alone and now you have someone you can talk to when these feelings pop up. Maybe come up with a code word for when you’re feeling this way, so you can text each other, and the other person can text back a little pep talk (even if it’s only one sentence).
6. Write down, post, and say positive affirmations that focus on this issue. Say them to yourself in the mirror, out loud while you’re driving, or before you go to sleep. Tape it on your computer screen, refrigerator, or night stand. I have five for you to use, but you can always make your own!
- I am what a real _______ looks like.
- I am competent, creative, and courageous.
- I do everything to the best of my ability, and that is absolutely good enough.
- I acknowledge I am worthy of my successes.
- I celebrate my talents and achievements with joy and appreciation.
7. Do something that scares you. Is it asking for help? Submitting a project that’s not 100%? Delegating a task? Finally focusing on your hobbies instead of being a workaholic? Avoiding a challenging task you might not immediately ace? Try slowly building up to being able to do it. For example, if you have a difficult time delegating a task, start small. Start by asking someone to pick you up some sticky notes from the supply room instead of you getting them yourself (and if they’re the wrong color, try and deal with it!). Then build from there with tasks that mean more and more to you. You can keep trying with the same person to build trust. Eventually, try to release control on something that you never would have imagined handing over to someone else. Bonus: You can keep a journal of the tasks you do, the dates, your anxiety level, feelings that arise, what you did to calm yourself, etc.
8. Share your successes with people. It can be in person, on social media, on a blog, at a staff meeting, in a text, however you want. But let people know what you accomplished, even it you’re worried it’s “small”. Maybe start with the person you opened up to about feelings of Imposter Syndrome. That can be an exercise you do together, sharing successes, rooting for each other, and celebrating them! Don’t forget to include how it makes you feel. Here’s a script you can use for a text, for example:
I just wanted to share with you that I _________. In this past I might have thought this was small, but I’m trying to celebrate my successes, and I wanted to share it with you! It makes me feel ______ and _______. Thanks for holding space for me and allowing me to share and celebrate. I’d love to hear something you recently accomplished! Have a wonderful day!”
9. Get something “official” that has what you are on it. It can be business cards, a certificate (you can even print one off yourself in Canva!), etc. Hand those out to people with confidence, frame the certificates and hang them on the wall (along with other things you’ve earned like diplomas, etc.) If we’re going to say what we are with confidence and gusto, it helps to have something tangible that backs it up. There’s nothing wrong with that! And remember, you can make up your own title! I made up “Merriment Maker”, and it fits me (and what I do) perfectly.
10. Remember three things:
+ The fact that you are actively involved in your passion is a big deal, and more than many people do. Lots of people say they’re going to do a thing and talk about it for decades, but never do. Action means something. You are walking your walk! Is there always more to learn, more goals to make, more steps to climb? Sure! But that doesn’t mean that where you’re at now isn’t valid, important, and meaningful. You are taking action consistently, and that is something to remind yourself of often.
+ Making mistakes, changing directions, starting over, asking for help, etc. is not failure. Even if your business goes bankrupt and you end up shutting it down, that does not mean you failed. It means you had an experience, and you learned from it. What is important is that you keep moving forward, you keep trying, you keep learning, and you keep your internal spark lit. Keep that passion, baby.
+ What you have to offer the world is meaningful and unique. Even if you think the market you’re in is “over-saturated”, you have a different perspective. There are a ton of self-help books all on the same type of topic, but people keep buying them because each person offers a unique spin on the situation, and maybe even more importantly, they share their personal story. Never think your story doesn’t matter. What you have experienced, what you want to create, what you know… it is helping the world. You are making the world a better place. Thank you for that.
I’m excited to share a free bonus with you! It’s a printable worksheet where you can do some easy introspective work/simple journaling/planning for how you can tackle getting over Imposter Syndrome with some of the tips I’ve shared with you today! Download your copy now and get to work!
So what do you think about Imposter Syndrome? Do you struggle with it? How do you deal with it?
Photos: Maura Housley