We’ve all felt it – that creeping sense of inadequacy, even in things at which others consider you an expert. Whether it’s the result of a new job, a new role in your current job, or just a particularly tough project, imposter syndrome is very real and can actively hold you back from trying and succeeding at new things. Let’s talk about what it is, how it affects us, and what you can do to combat it!
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome comes in many forms and affects many types of people. Perfectionists never feel like they’re quite good enough. Those influenced by hustle culture may feel like they’re always behind where they should be.
Sometimes we just don’t trust ourselves and our instincts – for any number of reasons. Whatever the cause, imposter syndrome, while not a diagnosable psychological condition, is very real and can cause you to doubt everything about yourself.
For this reason, we’ve gathered a few tips for how to recognize and conquer imposter syndrome before it undercuts your efforts to grow and advance in your career.
The Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line from humility to negative self-talk? Listen to yourself and the messaging you’re repeating. Even write it down every day in a journal so you can look back and recognize when things start to go south. Some of the common feelings associated with imposter syndrome include:
- Feeling like your success is due to lucky or coincidence
- Worrying others will find out you don’t belong
- Feeling unprepared or inexperienced
- Beating yourself up over small mistakes
- Comparing yourself to others around you
- Focusing more on your past than your current success
- Irrational anxieties over your performance
These unhealthy feelings indicate that your internal voice is undercutting your present efforts. And it’s time to start stepping out and finding your confidence.
How to Combat Imposter Syndrome
Learn How to Evaluate Mistakes
For someone who feels inadequate on the job, mistakes only feed the beast and make it worse. Instead of falling into instant despair whenever you mess up, take these opportunities to learn what you should do next.
Recognize that you aren’t going to always be on top of your game, and take a second to regroup. Step away from your desk, get some coffee to wake you up, or maybe just a minute to do some breathing exercises can help you get out of your funk. Small mistakes do not measure your worth. When you look at them as an opportunity to learn, you’ll not only flip the script to positive thinking, but you will get better.
Accept Your Shortcomings
The problem is that many people won’t admit to others when they don’t know something. Contrary to how most of us feel in those situations, the truth is that no one expects you to know everything. You are a human being learning and growing on the job.
Accept your shortcomings as learning opportunities and use them to help you advance. If you focus only on what you don’t know, you’ll never feel enough. Change the narrative, admit what you don’t know, and take the action to overcome your imposter syndrome. Your managers and executives will see you growing and know your self-motivated and are willing to chase after your dreams.
The human mind is a tricky thing. Your feelings, however truthful they may be, can be influenced by your thoughts. If you’re constantly saying, “I’m bad at this” or “I hope I don’t mess up,” anxiety and stress will follow.
That’s not to say that you can simply will negative feelings out of your life, but taking some of the following steps toward positive thinking can certainly help recalibrate your mindset a bit:
- Use positive language to interact with others. Exchange complaining at lunch with gratitude for others.
- Write down three things that you accomplished that day
- Surround yourself with positive people. Make friends with people who empower and make you feel good. Attend industry events and read books that are designed to build up and not tear down.
Remember, You’re Not Alone
Most people feel like a spy, hiding their ignorance on certain issues in plain sight. In reality, everyone has the same feelings as you. Everyone doubts. Worries. Wonders. You are absolutely not alone in this.
Melissa Woodworth, the VP of Branch Operations for DFW at RBFCU, spent years in the male-dominate finance industry. As an Influencer member of the International Association of Women, she is committed to supporting other professional women in their fight against imposter syndrome.
Don’t give into it. We deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. In most male dominated industries, women are not given opportunities to speak, present, or be in leadership positions. My favorite thing to do when someone tells me I can’t do something is prove them wrong. I believe my drive to prove people wrong about their shallow opinions of me drives me to succeed and makes me say “Watch me”. We have to overcome the negative self-talk in our heads. Remember that you are here for a reason. You have this position for a reason. Go get ’em!Melissa Woodworth
Want to find a community full of women like Melissa? IAW is open and waiting for women from all around the globe to join our community of professional women who want to expand their horizons just like you. Register for one of our weekly events, or find a local chapter near you to get started.
To conquer imposter syndrome, you must build a foundation of positive energy, trust that you will do your job as well as you can, and remember that you are not alone when you start to feel a little lost.