Updated: Jun 27
What is imposter syndrome?
Do you constantly question your abilities? Do you feel like your achievements are due to sheer luck and not merit-based? Do you find yourself questioning your worth and comparing yourself to others? Do you feel like a fraud? Do you have a constant worry that you will be uncovered as a fraud? Well, that is the typical representation of imposter syndrome.
Most of us have felt like frauds at some point, whether in school, at work, or in other aspects of our lives. However, when these feelings get out of control and impact negatively on your well-being and career development then that is an indication that you need help.
Is imposter syndrome a mental illness?
No, imposter syndrome is not recognized by the DSM-5 or ICD-10 as a mental illness. However, those feelings may be associated with mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
What causes imposter syndrome?
The causes of imposter syndrome are multifactorial and include but are not limited to;
Being an overachiever
Being a perfectionist
Growing up as part of a marginalized group
Surrounding yourself with people who create an environment for unhealthy competition
Surrounding yourself with people who constantly belittle you and your achievements.
How can I overcome imposter syndrome?
Dealing with imposter syndrome involves embarking on a journey of self-awareness, self-love and self-discipline. Here are 10 effective ways of dealing with and overcoming imposter syndrome:
Remember that no one is perfect
Human beings have their strengths and weaknesses and are therefore far from being perfect. You should embrace the beauty of imperfection and remind yourself that you can't be good at everything.
2. Write down the areas you are good at
I think we tend to underestimate the power of putting things down on paper. Once you make a list of your strengths and the skills you have, only then will you realize that you are brilliant. While at it, come up with a strategic plan of how you intend to maximize on these strengths and skills to produce high-quality long-term results.
3. Write down the areas you struggle with
Weaknesses are part of human nature, but the good news is that there is always room for improvement. Write down the areas in your life that you struggle with. The next step is to come up with a plan on how to improve on each of the areas. Check the next point on how to set goals and come up with a plan.
4. Set achievable and timely goals and objectives
Now that you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, it's time to write down your goals. The mistake that we often make while setting goals, is being overambitious and setting goals that end up frustrating us.
So here's what you should do:
Identify your long term vision. Where do you see yourself in the next 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?
Now break it down into smaller time-frames, say quarterly. Write down your goals for that time frame. This acts as a general guideline of what you intend to achieve.
Further break it down into objectives, which include the strategies that you intend to employ to achieve the set goals. Your objectives have to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
The next step is to break it down into weekly and daily goals and objectives. This is important because it enables you to walk towards your long-term goal by executing bite-sized tasks on a daily or weekly basis.
It is important to come up with a reward system for yourself, for every goal you achieve. Find a way of motivating and appreciating yourself. This will vary from one person to another so there is no standard way. Just find what works for you.
5. Avoid procrastination
"Procrastination is the thief of time." -Edward Young.
Imposter syndrome tends to make an individual put off tasks until the last minute mainly due to fear of failure. When you put off tasks until the last minute, you will have less time to perform them hence you are likely to deliver substandard work.
The surest way to avoid procrastination is to set goals and objectives which are time-bound and hold yourself accountable at the end of each day.
6. Include words of affirmation in your daily routine
The words you say to yourself are very powerful. Make it a habit to remind yourself how amazing you are and how far you have come.
There are daily affirmation apps on Apple Store and Google Play Store that might be of help. Learn more about them here.
7. Surround yourself with people who uplift you
The people you surround yourself with, have a direct impact on how you feel about yourself. Find a good support system that helps you grow in all aspects of your life. Your achievements are a big deal and your circle should be able to recognize and celebrate them.
8. Keep a journal
Journaling involves keeping a record of your day-to-day experiences, emotions and activities. Keeping a daily journal allows you to write down your daily goals, achievements and challenges. Take a few minutes at the end of each day and write down the following:
All the good things that happened
The things you are grateful for
The challenges you encountered
Any fears or concerns you might have
How you intend to make the next day better
9. Find a mentor
A mentor is an individual who is more experienced than you in a particular field and takes on the role of guiding you towards achieving your full potential. Consider the following while choosing a mentor:
Someone whose values align with yours
Someone who will challenge you to get out of your comfort zone
An individual with achievements that align with your aspirations
An empathetic individual
10. Talk to a therapist
Going to therapy will help you process your feelings and equip you with healthy ways of dealing with imposter syndrome. Make an appointment with your therapist. Research has shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) is effective in the management of imposter syndrome. This is attributed to the core strategy of CBT which changes thinking patterns by making you aware of the relationship between your thoughts and behavior.
Would love to hear your thoughts on how you overcome imposter syndrome. If you found this helpful, it would mean the world if you would drop a comment, share it with whoever you think might benefit from it.