How to deal with impostor syndrome

Everyone from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to actress Natalie Portman have dealt with paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. They’re just a few of the many people who have struggled with overcoming impostor syndrome: Up to 70 percent of people have felt like an impostor at some point in their career. 

You may not be the first person who has wondered how to deal with impostor syndrome, but with these tips, you can be one of the people who successfully conquers these feelings.

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What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy that stems from a belief that you don’t belong. That you don’t have the right skills. That one day, everyone will see that you’re just not good enough. It can cause anxiety, unhappiness and fear of failure. 

Rather than crediting innate skills, people with impostor syndrome credit luck or help from others. The belief that you can develop new skills with hard work and dedication is an indication of a growth mindset – normally a positive thing. But the feeling of being an impostor can destroy any ability to take credit for success, making overcoming impostor syndrome a must for anyone who wants to reach high levels of achievement. 

Impostor syndrome can be self-perpetuating: Those who feel inadequate may over-prepare. When the event goes well, they then become convinced that all the preparation was necessary, which reinforces the impostor syndrome. And if the event doesn’t go well, impostor syndrome worsens even more. 

How to deal with impostor syndrome

Learning how to get over impostor syndrome involves building your confidence so that you can take credit for your accomplishments, but still leave room for growth.

1. Focus on your strengths

discover your strengths in life

Knowing what you don’t know is a positive trait and an indicator of high self-awareness. Yet focusing too much on what you don’t know, instead of all the skills and knowledge you have mastered, can prevent you from overcoming impostor syndrome.

Make a written list of all the things you’ve accomplished. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and write them down as well. Be specific about the value and expertise you bring to your workplace or to your relationships. Not sure of your strengths? Ask a friend or colleague.

2. Reframe your experiences

There are often specific situations or interactions that will trigger feelings of impostor syndrome. To unlock how to deal with impostor syndrome, you must identify exactly what it is you’re afraid of. The next time you feel like an impostor, reflect on the circumstances that led up to the feeling and the self-talk you’re using once the feeling has started. You’ll likely see patterns.

Once you identify the experiences that are triggering impostor syndrome, you can reframe the problem as a challenge or an opportunity to learn something new. Think of times in the past that you’ve dealt with a similar situation successfully. Think about positive feedback you’ve received that contradicts your feelings of inadequacy. Remember that others aren’t better than you – they just have the right tools in their toolbox.

how to deal with impostor syndrome

3. Let go of perfectionism

Let go of perfectionism

Many experts believe that impostor syndrome derives from perfectionism. People who believe they will never be good enough, or that everything they do must be perfect, may have more trouble learning how to get over impostor syndrome. These are limiting beliefs that are deeply tied to feelings of doubt and a fear of failure.

While it may seem like perfectionism is a positive thing, the truth is that it doesn’t leave any room for growth – and if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Overcoming impostor syndrome means accepting that you will make mistakes. You will fail. Stop trying to be perfect and start living your life!

4. Own your accomplishments

You know your strengths. You’ve identified your limiting beliefs and transformed your self-talk. Now it’s time to start taking credit for your accomplishments. Speaking up indicates your expertise, and the more you do it, the more confident you will feel. It creates a positive feedback loop straight to your brain, making you feel less like an impostor with every accomplishment.

Not sure how to begin? Set up a regular, one-on-one meeting with your boss. Send out an email recognizing team-wide accomplishments, including your own. You can even ask a colleague to be your champion, and do the same for them.

Overcoming impostor syndrome

5. Talk about it

Remember, you’re not alone. There are plenty of people who are curious about how to deal with impostor syndrome. Develop a support system by talking to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. Find online groups where you can ask questions and meet others who feel the same way.

Results Coaching can also help you uncover the limiting beliefs that are holding you back and make a plan to move forward. Your coach will provide support, but also hold you accountable – something your friends may not be able to do. Coaching can take your career and your confidence to a new level.

Ready to conquer your limiting beliefs?

Overcoming impostor syndrome means taking a long look at your limiting beliefs. Discover how at Unleash the Power Within.