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Seven ways to square up to imposter syndrome

Voco Team

There’s no magic bullet to immediately escape the grip of imposter system - that nagging feeling of self-doubt that afflicts even the most successful of people - but we’re here to tell you that there are loads of things you can try to take control of your feelings. It’s important to find what works for you and not get hung up on whether or not you are ‘succeeding’ at crushing your imposter feelings - that would defeat the point!

1. Talk it out

Silence is imposter syndrome’s best friend, and your worst enemy in overcoming it. By keeping quiet about your feelings of inadequacy you’re likely putting on a front that everything’s super cool, when actually you’re struggling inside. In turn, this masks really healthy behaviours like empathy, curiosity and vulnerability which help us achieve more and build our confidence. So start talking about how you're feeling. 

Given 70% of us suffer from imposter syndrome at some point it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll find someone saying ‘oh god, I’ve totally felt that too’. Realising you’re not alone is important. Talking it over with peers, friends or even your boss can be cathartic and will remind you that it’s a very normal feeling. But try not to get stuck in negative conversational spirals; focus on having open, supportive, action based chats.

2. Be your own biggest fan

Ok, so no one likes a show off, but it’s important to remind yourself about all the amazing things you’ve done - whether they are big or small. Keep a personal record of things you’re proud of, nice things people have said, good feedback from others or just a list of things that you feel have gone your way. 

By keeping track of positive moments and accomplishments, you’ll start to see your brain recognising how and why things have gone right, rather than focusing on what’s gone wrong; and you’ll accumulate a body of evidence that will be super helpful when you’re preparing for job interviews and performance reviews, or just when you need a confidence boost. It’s totally cool to show off to yourself after all.

3. Learn how to take a compliment

Y’know when someone says something nice about something you’ve achieved and you respond with a self-deprecating comment about it just being down to luck? Stop that right now! Learn instead how to accept the praise (and bank it in your personal record of achievement, obvi) and respond with a nice big ‘thank you!’ By expressing gratitude when someone compliments something you’ve done, you’ll start to reframe your thinking so you feel worthy of the praise that other people think you’ve deserve. 

4. What’s the worst that can happen?

Rather than setting yourself a long list of ‘goals’ that may only exacerbate your feelings of inadequacy if you feel like you’re not achieving them, you could focus instead on listing your fears. As in the worst thing you can possibly imagine happening in a work context? Then think about what you need to do to mitigate that fear, breaking the actions needed down into achievable steps. Chances are once you name the fear it won’t seem as scary, and once you think about how you’ll deal with it, it won’t seem like a fear at all. Naming the things we’re afraid of often takes away their power and makes us see that there’s a way forward.

5. Flip your internal monologue

When you’re deep in the grip of imposter syndrome, it’s easy to turn every small set back into a massive screw-up, and to over-generalise and aggregate minor mistakes into a narrative about consistent failure. Negative self-talk fuels self-doubt so it’s important to try and reframe your thinking to make it more constructive. Instead of dwelling on what’s happened or what’s gone wrong, flip your thinking to focus on what you can learn from the experience or when you might have successfully handled something similar in the past. By switching up your internal monologue and seeing things in a positive light, you can move your mindset from shade to sun and start to grow.

6. Fake it til you make it

Sometimes the best way of building your self-confidence is by pretending to be confident. Yup, by faking it. Practice your most confident version of yourself. If you don’t feel confident, then pretend. Think about how you hold yourself, your posture, your hands, your smile. Use every tool in your box to act like you believe in yourself, because then other people will. And you know what, once they believe in you, then you’ll probably start believing in yourself too. It might not happen overnight, but slowly, you won’t need to fake it - you’ll have made it. Boom.

7. Mentor someone

Obviously at Voco we’re massive mentoring cheerleaders - it’s at the heart of what we’re all about. That’s because the very act of being a mentor can help in so many ways, not least in helping to address those nasty imposter-y thoughts. By helping someone else address challenges and overcome obstacles, you’ll also reinforce how great you are at doing those things yourself, and underline that you really do know what the hell you’re talking about. 

And don’t think you have to be a member of the great and the good to be a valuable mentor. Everyone has valuable experiences to share and interesting perspectives to offer; and by harnessing each others’ superpowers you can smash those feelings of inadequacy and doubt and square up to imposter syndrome once and for all.

Related: So what is imposter syndrome anyway?

More on imposter syndrome

The Squiggly Career Podcast: Imposter Syndrome

The Cut: 25 Famous Women on Imposter Syndrome and Self Doubt

Fast Company: It’s not just you: these super successful people suffer from imposter syndrome

Clance Imposter Syndrome Self Assessment

Quartz: Men and imposter syndrome

Dr Valerie Young: Imposter Syndrome

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