How to Handle Imposter Syndrome

Well, I made it two years without writing about it, but now it’s time.  Imposter syndrome. The first time I experienced it was when I graduated with my doctorate.  My first thought was that I wasn’t ready. The more I learned, the more I realized that I knew nothing (or so I thought). Eleven years later and I still experience it. It’s that nagging feeling of doubt where you believe that you’re winging it and someone will finally call you out on fakeness. Have you ever felt that?

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Apparently, up to 82% of people have admitted to experiencing Imposter Syndrome. So what exactly is it?  It’s not necessarily those moments where you wonder if you actually have what it takes to get a job done. We all experience that from time to time, and it’s quite normal to question your ability to do something. Impost Syndrome is different, though.  It goes a bit deeper.  Imposter Syndrome can make you think that you don’t deserve the achievement(s) that you have.  It’s not because you’re not good enough, but more so because you haven’t really accepted that you deserve your successes. Some people with Imposter Syndrome may feel phony- as though they reached levels of success out of pure luck and not because their hard work paid off. This is known to affect overachievers.  Is that you?

Now living in a society that values working a lot (sometimes to the point of exhaustion), working through sickness, and rarely taking vacation days may contribute to aspects of this syndrome.  However, there are ways to deal with feeling like an imposter.

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Photo by Natalie on
  • Take deep breaths and own the feeling:  Don’t run away from the feeling.  Take a deep breath and recognize what it is that you are experiencing and consider the reason why. Often, we are taught to run from negative feelings, but try taking it in, owning it, and moving past it by remembering your accomplishments. I bet they’re impressive!
  • Think about your accomplishments: Do this to remind yourself why you are where you are. Sometimes, going through our mental resume can boost our confidence and help us remember that we do know things really well. Therefore, we can contribute to greater conversations.
  • Eliminate the perfection myth:  Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism often go together, but we have to remember that “perfect” does not exist. There’s no such thing because everyone and everything has a flaw.
  • Talk with others:  Owning our successes and failures among friends reminds us that we are not alone. Let others build you up and you do the same for others.  Share stories. Encourage one another. Celebrate together.

Imposter Syndrome is real, but it does not have to be a setback. Remembering ways to handle it can help you tackle those difficult moments.

Take care and keeping leading,

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