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How to Identify Imposter Syndrome and Overcome Self-Doubt

Perhaps you find yourself moving through the tasks and responsibilities of your current job or role only to be met with an overwhelming flood of thoughts: How did I get here? Do I deserve to be in this role? What if I get found out and others realize that I don’t know what I am doing? These thoughts are common when experiencing a phenomenon that is known as Imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling not intelligent or capable enough despite evidence to the contrary. An individual experiencing this will doubt their abilities and harbor a fear of being exposed as a fraud. It is especially common among high-achieving individuals, but can affect people in all areas of life.

Experiencing imposter syndrome leads to an increased risk of job burnout and mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, feelings of self-doubt and shame. An individual with Imposter syndrome often feels anxious about being incapable in comparison to their peers. (For more information about anxiety, visit https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/blog/anxiety).

Types of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome can present in numerous ways. An individual experiencing it typically falls into one of the following subtypes (or a mix of several of them)

The Perfectionist: This individual sets extremely high self-standards and experiences constant anxiety around how they could have done/be doing better.

The Superwoman/man: This person typically struggles with work addiction as they push themselves to work harder to compensate for feeling inadequate. Work addiction may lead to burnout and take a detrimental toll on an individual’s well-being and relationships.

The Natural genius: This represents an individual with imposter syndrome who expects to excel immediately at a new task, and is faced with feelings of unworthiness and shame if they are unable to.

The Rugged individualist: This individual believes that asking for help will deem them inadequate, therefore they attempt to accomplish everything on their own.

The Expert: This person has a fear of being exposed as unknowledgeable despite having extensive knowledge in a particular area. This can make finishing tasks difficult, as they will want to learn everything there is to know about a topic.

5 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If you see yourself in one or multiple subtypes of imposter syndrome, here are some tips that can help you to manage feelings of self-doubt:

1. Talk to others

Processing feelings with a trusted friend or family member can help you to see that your feelings are not uncommon. Others can also remind you of your competence and achievements when it is difficult to see for yourself.

Many individuals find it beneficial to seek support from a mental health professional in order to work through what may be underlying persistent imposter feelings.

2. Remind yourself of your achievements

It can be helpful to have a tangible collection of compliments from others or affirmations that remind you of your strengths and impact. One idea is to compile a Microsoft Word document of positive feedback you have received from others that you can reference on days where you are questioning your abilities. This way you can easily be reminded of your past successes when you come up against overwhelming feelings of self-doubt.

3. Challenge negative thoughts

When you catch yourself comparing your abilities to that of others, bring yourself back to a focus on your strengths and areas of expertise. Remind yourself that thoughts are not facts. Just because you may think that you don’t know what you’re doing does not mean that it is true. Take time to pause, recognize these thoughts when they emerge and combat them with truth- that you are good enough (or smart enough or creative enough).

4. Become comfortable with ‘good enough’

It is perfectly normal to care about the quality of your work, however a fixation on seeking perfection can easily become unhealthy and paralyzing. Breaking out of a pattern of perfectionism can be difficult, and it is much easier said than done. Be intentional to move towards being okay with saying ‘good enough’ after completing a task and fight the urge to ruminate on what could have been done differently afterwards.

5. Celebrate your accomplishments

It is important to make sure you are taking the time to acknowledge your hard work before moving onto the next thing. Implement a system of rewards after you complete a project in order to focus on the excellent job you are doing instead of fears about not measuring up. Take the time to remind yourself that you deserve to be where you are, that you are absolutely capable and worthy.

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