Do you feel you are undeserving of your successes?
I recently sat down with a client whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time. She had moved to a new area and had started a new job after graduating from college. She found herself feeling anxious in the transition.
“I feel like my boss is going to figure out that I don’t actually belong here,” she told me. “I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. What if they made a terrible mistake in hiring me? I feel like a fraud.”
This was coming from a very intelligent, high performing woman. She had graduated high school a year early and finished college at the top of her class, all while holding a job in the demanding field of IT. Despite a lack of experience at her present job, she very clearly was not lacking in skillset, knowledge or ability. Instead, she was experiencing “imposter’s syndrome.”
Welcome to the inner circle of high achievers dealing with “Imposter’s Syndrome.”
If this is you, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. 70% of people experience this phenomenon at some point in their lives. It tends to hit during periods of transition, new responsibilities or notable achievements, leaving a person questioning their abilities or readiness for the tasks at hand and leading to them to experience an influx of anxiety.
If you are feeling the effects of imposter’s syndrome, it’s time to shift perspective.
Most people experience moments of self-doubt. What’s important is to not let these thoughts impact your actions. Take these steps to shift perspective.
Take comfort in numbers
Remember that feeling out of your depth at times is normal and that others feel this too, even if they aren’t admitting it. Use this knowledge to ask questions and be open to learning, knowing that your efforts are benefiting all of those other “imposters” around you.
Notice when you dismiss yourself
Are you quick to discount your strengths? Most people with imposter’s syndrome chalk up their successes to one of three areas: luck, circumstance or accident. We are often taught to be humble, and this is important. But completely dismissing hard work, opportunity and success causes a person to feel as if they are undeserving. Notice when you downplay your part in your successes. For example: Yes, you may have benefited from your parents paying for med school, but you earned the degree.
Accept/acknowledge other’s gratitude or praise
When someone pays you a genuine compliment or acknowledges your abilities, own it. Be a gracious receiver of compliments. These are reminders of the fact that you do, indeed have what it takes to be where you are in life.
Celebrate in your current successes
We are often looking for the next big thing. In fact, there are plenty of studies that show that a person receives more positive feelings in the anticipation leading up to a goal or accomplishment than after it’s reached. This is because people are typically looking towards the next goal rather than basking in the success of the recent accomplishment. Taking time to reflect on recent successes serves as a great reminder of your progress.
Keep a “brag” file
Remember that box that your mom kept when you were a kid? Mine was full of things I drew, stories I wrote and report cards that said I “talked too much in class”. This was physical evidence of my childhood “highlights.” They were fun to review and reminded me of notable moments and accomplishments throughout childhood. This should continue in adulthood. Keep a “brag” file where you can store thank you notes, published articles, awards and other evidence of your success. Visit the file to shore up self-esteem when self-doubt creeps in.
Write a letter to yourself to celebrate your future successes: A lot of times we think that once we meet a certain goal (graduation from college, receiving a promotion, losing those last 5 pounds) that our lives will magically change. The problem arises when you are constantly moving the goal post. People often find that after achieving a goal, they discount their success and replace it with a new self-imposed demand. By writing a letter to yourself regarding a current goal, you can reflect back on how you felt before reaching the accomplishment and give yourself the credit you deserve for your hard work.
So there you go. Use these tips and reframe your thoughts. And if you still feel like an imposter, remember the wise words of Tina Faye, a self-described imposter: “Everyone else is an imposter too.”