Imposter Syndrome: What It Is and Tools to Conquer It

Imposter syndrome is the uncomfortable feeling that the success you achieved was due to good luck or good timing and that you’ll be exposed for being a fraud when in fact you earned your success honestly and earnestly. It affects 70% of all overachievers, mostly women and minorities, although plenty of men are affected by it too. It can occur when you’ve been promoted or changed jobs and are in a new setting surrounded by new people who don’t know you very well. 

 

The issue with imposter syndrome is that it can cause you to start to fake it, to be the person you think others want you to be. Taken to an extreme, it can lead to failure in the job. Understanding imposter syndrome and when it occurs is key to avoiding it, or shaking the little green man off your shoulders. Here are a few tips:

 

  • When you’ve been promoted or start a new job, make an effort to meet as many people as possible, in the interview process, during onboarding, and in your first few weeks. Getting to know them and talking about your responsibilities early will help set expectations for all parties (and lessen the potential for false impressions to develop).
  • It’s natural to have a little anxiety before stepping into a new role. Sit down with yourself and write down, or better yet record and playback, your expertise, accomplishments, and skill sets. You really did achieve your success honestly!
  • Realize others may not know your role and may make assumptions. Phrases like, “she’s the expert” or “he’s the leading the charge” may trigger anxiety or the feeling that you are undeserving of these accolades. When this happens, be clear about your role and how you want the help of others in a team effort. Humility goes a long way towards leveling the playing field, creating a learning culture and drawing people in.
  • Also understand that you don’t have to have all the answers. It’s ok to ask for help, to admit that you’re not the expert in every topic and to simply say, “that’s interesting, tell me more” or “can you elaborate on that?”
  • Make an effort to understand what the agenda of every meeting is, who is attending, what your role might be and what’s expected of you. The more information you have, the less the fear of the unknown can creep in.
  • Visualize yourself in situations that might make you feel uncomfortable. How do you sound? What are you saying? Pre-imagining a potentially challenging scenario can lessen anxiety and make you feel prepared and more confident.
  • Lastly, make sure you have a strong safety-net of mentors around you who will give you the shot in the arm that you need, and tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

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