Breaking Free From Imposter Syndrome: Yes, You Really Can Handle This!
I’ve heard this phrase used a lot over the last twelve months – imposter syndrome – and, probably unsurprisingly, it’s only women who’ve ever said it to me.
What is it about women that makes them feel like a fraud, concerned that they’ll be exposed at any moment? And how can we overcome the feelings of self-doubt that it feeds on?
Before I go on, I need to say this. Anyone can do anything they want; it’s just a mindset. If you believe you can’t, you can’t; but guess what – if you believe you can, the world is your oyster. Truly.
I may have told myself many things over the years, tricked myself into believing that I was useless, hopeless, stupid and unlovable but ironically, I’ve never struggled with imposter syndrome, or self-doubt. I’ve never looked at myself and thought ‘How the hell have you got here? You’re going to get found out soon…’. That’s not to say that there haven’t been a few behind the hand comments to myself along the lines of ‘Wow, look where you’re at right now, this is pretty unbelievable isn’t it?’ over the years; there have. The difference is that I’ve embraced being somewhere I never envisaged being, and taken on work projects that I wasn’t entirely sure I could handle (and done them well) – not questioned myself or my abilities. I’ve done all that because deep down I’ve believed that I could do whatever I put my mind to.
So how can you do the same, and break free from imposter syndrome, to become the kickass woman who can do whatever she wants, irrespective of her doubts?
1. Believe in yourself! I don’t know you but I do know this: the fact that you are reading this blog, and chances are you’ve read many others too, suggests to me that you are keen to be the best version of you that you can be. That you’re tired of doubting yourself and want to achieve your goals and live a life full of happiness and joy. You’re entitled to that. More than entitled to that, in fact. But do you believe it? I suspect you might not. I want you to look yourself in the mirror, and really look at what you see. Kindness, strength (it’s there, even in tiny amounts right now), and compassion. Tune into those wonderful traits, and allow yourself to accept who you are; warts and all. It’s when we start on the road of acceptance that we are much more able to believe in who we are and, in the process, become less concerned about what others think of us – which is, in essence, the drive behind the imposter syndrome.
2. Write down your skills and strengths. We often forget how good we are at things in our haste to concern ourselves with what people think of us and our skills. I have no idea why, we just do. So I want you to write down all of your skills, and all of your strengths, and study them closely. Look at how amazing you are! How unique you are! How do you use these skills and strengths to help other people (I bet you do!)? How much have others benefited from your support? And then, with that in mind, think about why you continue to tell yourself that you don’t deserve to be where you’re at, and why you’re a fraud; whilst looking at that list. It’s not true, is it.
3. Ask others for their opinion. I’m not usually a fan of asking other people for their opinions, they aren’t always helpful, but I’m prepared to make an exception in this instance. Ask other people what skills and strengths they think you have, and how you’ve helped them. Ask them why you’re the person they come to when they need those skills and strengths you possess. Ask them why they spend time with you, why they love you. And then take it all in. Every last word. People really value you…
4. Accept compliments. When we’re plagued with self-doubt, compliments tend to go over our heads. We don’t believe them. I’m asking you to listen to the compliments that people pay you, and then say thank you. I want you to accept them, even if that feels like the toughest thing ever, and perhaps even write them down. Re-read them. Again and again. People don’t tell you nice things for the good of their health, they tell you because they mean it; just as you do when you give them.
5. Stop the trash talk. Stop that little voice that chips away at you, telling you that you’re not good enough and will never be good enough. It doesn’t come from you, it comes from someone else. It also has no basis in reality, it’s just someone else’s – negative – opinion that they projected on to you because they didn’t feel so good about themselves. They saw good in you and felt threatened by it. You are wonderful, with lots of skills and strengths, and people see them and love you. Remember that, and the next time the voice pipes up – ignore it. Read your list, remember a compliment someone paid you, and think about the things you’ve achieved.
You’re no imposter: you’re important. You’re you. You can handle this.