If you’ve ever had a nagging feeling that you don’t deserve the position you ascended to, or that you didn’t really “earn” your success — you simply got “lucky” — then you’re no stranger to impostor syndrome. Well, you’re far from alone: Studies suggest that 70 percent of the population has experienced it at some point in their lives. And new research from Brigham Young University found that impostor syndrome is common in the workplace and among college students — 20 percent of students in their study struggled with it.
The truth is, feeling like a poser or a fraud has very little to do with your age, experience level, or abilities. “People who suffer from impostor syndrome often are quite skilled and competent at what they do, and consistently striving to be better and achieve more,” says Melanie Lopes, M.F.T., a California-based psychotherapist specializing in self-esteem issues.
The good news is that when you hear your thoughts taking a turn for Impostorland, you can stop them and redirect. Here, a few strategies to overcome feeling like a fraud:
Reach outside of the office for support
As important as it is to have confidants at work, interestingly, the B.Y.U. study noted that one of the most successful techniques to cope with impostor syndrome is having a support network beyond school or the office. When students reached out to friends outside of their academic major, they experienced a decrease in feelings of insecurity. The reason may come down to sharing honestly and, in turn, getting a much-needed dose of perspective:“Creating an outside support network allows you to drop your defenses and eliminate the concern with how others see you and your professional skill,” says Dr. Mitchell Hicks, clinical psychologist and academic coordinator for Walden University’s PhD in Psychology program. “There is freedom in no longer needing to keep up appearances with those with whom we are not in any kind of competition.”
Keep an “accomplishments” file
Sometimes the best way to give yourself a pep talk when impostor syndrome strikes is to remind yourself of your past successes. That way, when your brain tries to tell you you’re not “made” for success, you can show it otherwise. Lopes recommends creating a running list (you can do it on your phone or computer) of your accomplishments — big and small — and referencing it as often as needed.
Set realistic expectations
When you feel like an impostor, ask yourself if what you’re really experiencing is perfectionism: Are you putting pressure on yourself to master something right now? If so, you may be setting the bar too high. “It’s OK to not be an automatic expert on everything,” says Kimberly Meehan, N.P., a psychiatric nurse practitioner. “Just as it took you 10 years of math to learn calculus, it’s going to take you time to feel advanced in anything that you are doing.”
Hear other people’s struggles
“Seek out stories of those you respect to hear that they, too, went through similar feelings of inadequacy,” suggests Hicks. “Knowing that you’re not alone can go along way.” Even better: Call your mentor. As someone who is in your corner, she can also point out “strengths and achievements that you may overlook within yourself,” Meehan points out.
Accept that you’ll make mistakes
It seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget: No one is perfect. Even the most successful people in the world have erred on their way to the top — and you’re no different! Mistakes and missteps aren’t the end of the world, and making a flub doesn’t make you a fraud.
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