ImpostorHave you ever walked into a meeting, job interview or other high-pressure situation and thought to yourself “I don’t belong here.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  How long until they figure out I can’t do this?”.  If so, you have just experienced what researchers call “Impostor Syndrome” – which is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt that feeds your negative self-talk and leads to anxiety and even depression.  The worst part of Impostor Syndrome is the isolation that accompanies it – if you are worried that people will discover you are a fraud, you are highly unlikely to start a conversation about your feelings.  But here’s the good news, you are not alone.  Current research suggests that up to 70% of people have suffered from the self-doubt known as “Impostor Syndrome” at least once in their life.

The important thing to keep in mind, is not how often we fear failing, stumbling or looking foolish in front of other people.  What matters is how we handle those times when our self-doubt flares up and we are tempted to walk away from a challenge.

So, what do you when you start to feel like an “Impostor”?

  1. Acknowledge Your Successes: You didn’t end up here by chance. You ended up here because you are a smart, talented, hard-working and all around awesome person.  So own that.  Don’t try to give credit to outside forces – luck didn’t get you here – YOU got you here.  One thing I always encourage my clients to do in those times of high self-doubt is to list off all the successes they have had recently.  Doing this, helps you to combat that negative voice in your ear, the one that’s telling you that you can’t pull this off.
  2. Realize Perfection Doesn’t Exist: Nobody is perfect. Nobody will do everything perfectly, every single time.  So instead of trying to be perfect, allow yourself to get things done “good enough”.  Try not to focus on the things you don’t like, and instead, focus on what you do like.  I like to encourage my clients to set a time limit for each project – and try to stick to it.  If you budget 4 hours for a project, stay within that time.  Allowing yourself an “unlimited” amount of time for a project, allows you to constantly go back and edit, update, and find more “flaws”.  So make a time limit and stick to it.  If you want someone to proof your work, build that into your time limit.
  3. Find Your Cheerleaders: When you start to hear those negative voices whispering in your ear, or that self-doubt starts to creep in, it can be helpful to have one or two trusted people you can talk to. Remember, you don’t want the support of others to replace your belief in yourself – but having someone you trust, remind you of your successes can be valuable in times of self-doubt.

If you would like to learn more about Imposter Syndrome and strategies to overcome it – please feel free to call me for a free 15 minute phone call.

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Lindsay Simmons, MSW, RSW
Therapist in Oakville, ON