Are you constantly questioning your abilities?
Do you look at your accomplishments and chalk it up to luck?
Do you have a hard time accepting recognition or praise because you feel like a fraud, even though you have the expertise and qualifications?
If the answer is yes, welcome to the imposters club. A club everyone has been a member of at some point in their life. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which you feel like you don’t deserve your accomplishments, like you don’t belong, or you don’t deserve credit. Even though you may have an impressive job title, a good car, a healthy paycheck, or other evidence proving you have succeeded professionally, the imposter syndrome talk tracks in your brain convince you that it is not enough and that you don’t deserve what you’ve got.
The worst part of this is that it is a total waste of time and energy! This insidious, false thinking pulls you away from healthy thinking into a trap of delusion, where you focus energy and effort in ways that are unnecessary.
You are susceptible to imposter syndrome if:
You are a high achiever
You fear failure
You believe you “don’t need” praise
To shift out of imposter syndrome, we must accept it for what it is. Dr. Valerie Young, an award-winning author and speaker, is the leading expert on this subject. In her books and TEDTalk, she identifies the 5 types of imposter syndrome that are most commonly expressed. Knowing which type you embody most often can help you zero in on the underlying causes and adopt strategies to stop wasting your energy. This will also help you adopt healthy, reality-based thinking that will magnetize the work and relationships you want, instead of the people and jobs that inadvertently keep you in imposter loops.
Let’s explore the 5 types with an “antidote” that offers immediate, new healthy thinking:
1) The Perfectionist
The most popular type of imposter syndrome is when you feel that everything you do must be perfect, or else it won’t work. You employ hard work and diligence to ensure you exceed what is expected. This can keep you from starting and finishing a project. It can also create anxiety when you constantly overthink what success can and should look like. (Honestly, I have to admit, I have to push past this every week when writing this blog.)
Stop yourself as soon as you notice overthinking, an inner voice telling you your work is wrong, or you keep rewriting the email, document, or presentation.
Challenge yourself by asking, “Do I need to continue to do this?”
Choose to embrace “good enough,” instead of the imaginary concept of perfect. Establish a deadline to be finished and then launch, i.e., “I'm going to work on this for 30 minutes and then I’m done.”
Make a deal with yourself to up-level over time.
2) The Natural Genius
If you received A’s in grade school and university, it was probably a shock to your system when you didn’t receive the same feedback in the real world. Any feedback may have sounded like criticism rather than an opportunity to learn and improve. This can make you believe that when things don't come easily, then it’s not worth pursuing or that you’re “not good enough.” This flawed thinking can limit your career and relationships. Life isn’t easy. Even certified geniuses struggle at times. Most things in life have some degree of difficulty that requires learning and expansion.
Stop yourself as soon as that inner voice tells you “This effort isn’t worth the energy,” or “I can’t do this.” Breathe a few times to reset your nervous system.
Challenge yourself by getting curious. Ask yourself these questions: “What can I learn? What am I seeing or hearing that is hard to understand? What can I explore that will help me increase my competence in this area/topic?”
Choose to accept that real life requires a constant flow and creative process that is very different than what you probably experienced in your education. Permit yourself to learn, be messy, try new things, seek new ways of thinking and doing, and move away from the need to validate your work through other people’s preferences.
3) The Rugged Individualist
This type is the person who does everything on their own and does not ask for help. This can stem from a belief that if you need help, you must not be as capable, and people will find out. If you do everything by yourself, no one will discover what you don't know.
Stop yourself as soon as you notice that you are trying to do it all yourself.
Challenge yourself by asking, “Who could and would help me with this?” Doing everything by yourself is not sustainable. Everyone wins when you can overcome the flawed thinking of doing it all yourself.
Choose to ask for assistance. Allowing other people to be a part of your world is a superpower. Whether it’s a friend, your spouse, or a colleague, identify one or two people who can help you bring your vision for this project to life or solve the immediate problem. Allow yourself to be helped, trust people to do their best for you, and enjoy the value of your network.
4) The Expert
If you believe you need to know everything before you take any action, decide, or speak out, you may have this “expert” talk track running in your brain. The overwhelming urge to comprehend everything (or at least pretend to) puts an unnecessary burden on your nervous system and wreaks havoc on both your work and personal relationships. Here's a wake-up call: nobody has all the answers. When you constantly strive to be right or appear as if you're a walking encyclopedia on any given topic, it makes you come off as pompous. This erects an invisible wall between you and others, unintentionally conveying that you don't value their input and ultimately pushing them away.
Stop and breathe when you notice (or are told) you are in this damaging mindset.
Challenge yourself to embrace curiosity and continuous learning rather than aiming for absolute knowledge.
Choose to ask questions, seek different perspectives, and maintain an open mindset when engaging in conversations. This includes:
Recognize that you can always expand your horizons.
Learn to value the insights and experiences of others.
Adopt a mindset that true knowledge often lies in the collective wisdom of a group rather than just one individual.
Pay attention to others and genuinely listen to what they have to say. Resist the urge to interrupt or interject with your own opinions.
Give space for their perspectives to be heard and respected.
5) The Superhero
The Superhero, a.k.a. the workaholic, is the person who feels the constant need to go above and beyond to prove themselves. However, overworking and over-functioning are not the answer. You feel exhausted, resentful, overwhelmed, and eventually, you will wonder why you’re doing all of this. Additionally, you doing it all will unintentionally create helplessness, a lack of appropriate accountability, and sometimes laziness in the people around you.
Stop yourself as soon as you notice that you are trying to do it all yourself. Notice your self-talk, such as “If I don’t do it, no one else will,” or “I have to do this or it won’t be done right.”
Challenge yourself by asking, “Who could and would help me with this?” Acknowledge that doing everything by yourself is not sustainable.
Choose to ask for assistance: allowing other people to be a part of your world is a superpower.
Whether it’s a friend, your spouse, or a colleague, identify one or two people who can help bring your vision to life or solve the immediate problem.
Create boundaries around what is truly your responsibility and what is not. Allow the people around you to do their part.
Manage your impulse to do too much and save people.
Trust people to do their best for you, and enjoy the value of your network.
Celebrate your progress in “leaning out” and amplify your confidence without it being about other people.
Overall, it is important to remember that imposter syndrome is a reality for many. We are all susceptible to bouts of self-doubt and second-guessing our abilities. If you start viewing your accomplishments as earned and deserved, and not just luck or due to outside forces, you will begin to silence the voice of Imposter Syndrome. By owning your achievements and realizing you are capable of great things, you can beat your inner saboteur and grow in confidence.
To help yourself on this journey towards success, join our AVVI Collective Membership for resources, tools, and events. Here you can learn more about how to tackle Imposter Syndrome and other ways of thinking and behaving that are making you settle, play small and miss the opportunity to have the happy and fulfilling life you desire.
We got you!
And if you are interested in more on Imposter Syndrome, watch Dr. Valerie Young’s TED Talk here.