“I have no clue what I’m doing.”
“I just got lucky.”
“I don’t deserve this position.”
If you find yourself having these types of thoughts regularly, then you might have impostor syndrome. Social scientists define impostor syndrome as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”
Perfectionists, professionals, and even celebrities are all too familiar with impostor syndrome.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, once told New York Times: “Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”
Impostor syndrome is also very common among self-employed freelancers, and if left unchecked, it can deprive you of all your motivation.
Here are a few tips to overcome the syndrome.
Acknowledge and accept
Like any other problem, the first step to defeating impostor syndrome is to acknowledge the problem. The next time you hear yourself putting your efforts down, catch yourself.
Is it truly how you feel? Do you really deserve that criticism? Sometimes just accepting that it’s impostor syndrome can feel more liberating.
Journaling can be an effective way of tracking your thoughts and feelings without fear of anyone else reading your words. You can even use a notes app in your phone. Journaling will help you find emotional patterns and create an outlet of expression.Keeping a journal is one of the most effective ways of overcoming impostor syndrome. Click To Tweet
Stop comparing yourself
Our society constantly ranks us against one another, based on looks, achievements, salary, titles, and other material measurements. In the workplace, our measurement for achievement is often how we compare ourselves with others.
Focus on developing yourself, independent of other people’s performance. Learn to appreciate your own successes without having to reference someone else. Seeing your true value is one of the keys to success.
The comic below, by Russian artist Igor Kalashnikov, perfectly illustrates this point.
Document your accomplishments
It’s easy to focus on all the things you’ve done wrong, to reminisce on all your shortcomings and failures. Even if someone gives you a list of all the things you’ve done right, you’ll probably focus on that one thing they said you failed to do.
Create a scrapbook, Google Doc, or folder of everything you’ve accomplished that you are proud of. Any awards you may have won, any projects you’ve seen through completion, even tiny notes, and comments from customers or teammates.
Write a list of all the things you’re proud to have done. Whenever you get hit with a case of impostor syndrome, simply pull out the folder.
Take it as a learning exercise
My mentor once taught me to focus on spinning negative sentences into positive opportunities. Instead of saying, “I’m terrible at math,” simply say, “I’m still learning a lot about math.” Or the next time you say, “I don’t know how to manage my finances,” try saying “I don’t know how to manage my finances yet.”
Just adding a single word or two can change your perception from a permanent setback or limitation into one of growth and development. After all, you have to be bad at something before you can learn to be good at it.Changing your internal self-talk can transform your limitations into opportunities for growth. Click To Tweet
Realize authenticity isn’t real
News flash: no one knows what they’re doing. No matter how confident and sure someone seems on television or in public, the reality is they were born into the world with the same doubts and insecurities as you.
When you finally realize this, that everyone is faking their way into confidence, you can adapt that same strategy. There’s nothing wrong with faking confidence until you have it. Fake confidence is practically indistinguishable from real confidence.
Impostor syndrome may never go away, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can be a way of keeping your actions and ego in check.
Most importantly, if you ever feel alone, find ways to speak to your friends or family, or even a stranger on the internet. Bottling up emotions won’t lead anywhere, it will only bring more misery.
Everyone feels the pain of comparisons and criticism. Don’t let it bring you down. Let it fuel your desire to grow instead.
Leo Herrera is a freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. His writing has been featured in Profile, Chicago Mag, Buffer, and more. When he’s not writing, Leo spends his time designing video games, producing music, and working on short films.