Have you ever felt like you’re faking it? Like you’ve been given a certain position, grade or award by luck? That people will find you out and expose that you don’t know as much? Then you might be suffering from imposter syndrome and I wrote this article for you to test it and find out how to overcome it.
Realizing that I was dealing with this interesting phenomenon called “imposter syndrome” was such an important break-through for me and starting to work on it changed many things in my life for the better. But what exactly is imposter syndrome?
It definitely sounds more serious than it actually is and it has been estimated that nearly 70% of people will experience signs of it in their lives. So it’s actually very common. That’s why it was so dear to my heart to write about this topic and offer you a way to test if you experience some signs of imposter syndrome. Let’s first clarify what it actually means.
So what exactly does “Imposter Syndrome” mean?
Imposter syndrome basically means that you doubt your own accomplishments which makes you feel like a fraud. This basically means that you could be the most successful person in the world and you would still end up downplay your accomplishments and somehow think that you don’t deserve them. Maybe this sounds familiar to you.
The problem with this kind of mindset is that you not only end up feeling bad for no reason, you will eventually also become scared of success because you feel like you’re not “worth it”.
Interestingly, the majority of people who suffer from imposter syndrome are highly skilled and successful people who are very good at what they do
Let’s take the example of the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. Even though she is incredibly successful, she has experienced imposter syndrome throughout her career. So much that she even wrote a whole book dedicated to that single topic. In “Lean In” (you’ll find it on Amazon when you click on the picture), she writes that every time she excelled at something, she believed that she had “fooled everyone yet again.”
The more successful and skilled you are, the more likely it is that you feel like a fraud
To me, it’s very interesting that it’s especially the high-skilled and successful people who experience imposter syndrome. One would think that people with fewer skills are more likely to feel like a fraud but it’s actually the other way round. When you’re in this mindset, the more you achieve, the more you will also doubt that you deserve your achievements.
I experienced and still sometimes experience signs of imposter syndrome (that’s why I can talk from experience and want to help you). The more I succeeded, the less I believed that I truly was that smart. I would instead attribute it to sheer luck or to people just being extra nice to me.
This may sound irrational but these are the feelings that people who experience imposter syndrome deal with. The following quote comes from Meryl Streep, the actress who holds the most Academy Award nominations.
Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway. so why am I doing this? – Meryl Streep
Now I have a question for you..
Did any of this sound familiar to you?
Personally, I wish I had known earlier that there was a “name” to what I was experiencing because once you know the problem, you can also find a solution to it.
That’s why I put some signs of imposter syndrome together for you to test whether you could also experience it (even if it’s subconscious)
Test: Are you experiencing signs of imposter syndrome?
1. You attribute any success you have to sheer luck or other circumstances outside of yourself
Whenever you achieve something great for yourself, you don’t give yourself credit for it and believe that it’s due to some other circumstance. You can’t believe that you’re achievements are a result of your skills and work, so you attribute it to just getting “lucky” or to people liking you and therefore treating you better. I definitely experienced this at university and would always find some excuse to justify my success
2. You are often described as a perfectionist
This trait is also referred to the superman/superwoman aspect. You are holding yourself to impossible standards of perfection and feel shame and disappointment when you fail.
3. It’s difficult for you to accept praise
It’s difficult for you to accept praise because you feel like you don’t deserve it and that you haven’t done enough in order for people to praise you.
When you feel like a fraud (like you don’t deserve your success), praise can make you feel very uncomfortable and it makes you experience feelings of guilt and shame.
4. You are sometimes sabotaging your own success
In order to not having to feel the shame and guilt that comes with feeling like a fraud, you sometimes sabotage your own success and you might not even be aware of it yet. Have you ever started something and ended it before it could get too good (especially when you started seeing progress and momentum)? This is a sign of being scared of success.
5. You tend to avoid showing confidence
Much more common in women, this behavior is a result of feeling inadequate or unworthy. You are thinking “Why would I show up in a confident way when I don’t have enough skills to back it up?” You most certainly have a lot of skills and are a very intelligent person but as already mentioned before, it’s especially the skilled, successful and talented people who experience signs of imposter syndrome.
If you could relate to some of these signs in the imposter syndrome test and always thought “Yes, this is me”, don’t worry. First of all, you’re not alone. There are so many other people who experience it but never talk about it (or don’t even know that there is a name to it). On top of that, it’s possible to overcome this kind of limiting mindset. Before we look at tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome, let’s look at some of the reasons why these feelings come from?
What causes imposter syndrome?
The seeds for imposter syndrome are often already planted in childhood and the way your self-image has been affected by societal and cultural influence. You are often labeled and put in a box from a very young age. Here are some examples for labels you have been given:
- The smart one
- The one with learning difficulties
- The sensitive one
- The shy one
- The loud one
The problem with these labels is that we subconsciously try to live up to them and basically stick to a narrative the world has created for yourself, not the one YOU choose. That is also the reason why change is so hard for us as humans.
We subconsciously always want to live up to a certain self-image and if you are not the one who creates their own self-image, the world will end up creating it for you.
Another theory is that as a child, you were told that you are somehow perfect and “superior” to others, so as soon as something goes wrong or you don’t succeed, you start doubting yourself.
Now let’s look at some tips on how to start doing the mindset work and overcome imposter syndrome.
How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome
1. Start celebrating your success
I know, this might feel weird in the beginning when you’re not used to it but once you start consciously celebrating your wins, it will become a habit. It’s important that you start with small wins. You could meet up with friends and go to a restaurant/have a little celebration or treat yourself. Thereby, you slowly but surely attach more positive emotions to your success.
2. Harness the power of visualization
Professional athletes do this all the time and you should too. By visualizing your success and picturing how it will make you feel + how you react to it, you can already prime your mind to react in a more positive way. Instead of visualizing the worst-case scenario and how you will feel like a fraud, imagine how proud you will be of yourself and how you will actually give yourself credit and enjoy it.
3. Practice positive self-talk
This habit has done and still does so much for me. Instead of relying on other people, you can start practicing positive self-talk right now. Talk to yourself like you’re your best friend and tell yourself how amazing and skilled you are.
Here are some empowering things you can tell yourself:
- I am confident in myself and my abilities
- I deserve all the good things that are coming my way
- I am skilled, talented, intelligent and an amazing person
- I am proud of myself
- I am constantly inspiring people around me
- I love to celebrate my accomplishments
Lastly, I want to tell you that it’s so important to talk about your feelings. There may be others who feel like imposters too – it’s better to have an open dialogue rather than dealing with these negative thoughts alone.
You can also start treating your imposter syndrome as a friend. Most of the time, when we try to push negative emotions away, they will come up even stronger. So the next time you feel like a fraud and as if you’re not deserving of your success, speak kindly to that inner voice. Tell it “Welcome back, old friend. I’m know you’re here but I also know how strong and smart I am. Now, let’s get to work.”
I hope this article helped you clarify the emotions you’re experiencing and how to start freeing yourself of this mindset.
Lots of love,