If you ever feel like you’re undeserving of your position, accomplishments, or recognition at work or another area in your life, and have ruminative thoughts about how you’ll be exposed as a fraud, you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. In Part 1 of my two-part series on this topic, we’ve gone through how it typically manifests, as well as the factors that lead to such a negative and persistent thought pattern. With this framework in place, let’s now look at how a person can work towards overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
As with most of my therapy work, I prefer a structured approach when working with my clients to overcome their Imposter Syndrome. The plan for each individual varies, of course, but I often return to some or all of these ideas at some point in the psychotherapy process.
1. Identify when a cognitive distortion comes knocking
If Imposter Syndrome is, at its heart, a negative cognitive pattern that loops over and over again, then one way of overcoming it is to identify specific thoughts and working on them. Many of my “imposter” clients have a habit of trivialising or minimising their contributions by, for example, attributing things to good luck. By being alert to these thoughts and identifying them, an “imposter” will be able to take further steps to address them.
2. Objectively assess yourself
The counterpoint to identifying one’s distorted thought patterns is objectively assessing one’s strengths and contributions. This requires mindful attention; I often give my clients the “homework” of fairly assessing themselves in terms of their strengths, and their contributions to a team or project. They then need to be able to assign “gold stars” to themselves after a job well done. The goal here is to offer an alternative view of the situation that is more objective. Have clear, measurable, and realistic yardsticks, and then give yourself credit for achieving them.
Many of my “imposter” clients describe feeling like frauds, and that they feel inferior to specific peers in the industry who seem to be far more insightful, or capable, or effective. After some probing, I then learn that these “peers” have actually had far more years in the industry, which has naturally given them a lot more experience and exposure. Here’s the bottom line: a realistic yardstick is crucial, so resist the urge to compare “upwards”, and instead focus on improving your own performance! Look inwards rather than compare outwards to help yourself with overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
3. Talk to someone you trust and respect
Perspective is important, and one easy way to get it is to talk to a trusted person whom you respect. This can be either a peer or a mentor, and the goal is the same: to get a healthy perspective on how we’re doing, and what can be improved. Such input definitely beats having a distorted cognitive feedback loop that downplays one’s abilities and achievements.
4. Speak to a therapist
Imposter Syndrome is often rooted in beliefs like “I’ll never be good enough” or “I’m just not worthy”. Thought patterns aside, these are sometimes rooted in past experiences that have been entrenched to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Speaking about and processing these maladaptive beliefs can help to identify when and how some repetitive thoughts came about, which then allows new thoughts and behaviors to be developed in their place. In turn, this puts a person on the path to overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome involves various aspects of psychotherapy, mental wellness, and an understanding of corporate psychology. Many use this negative thought pattern as “fuel” to improve or drive themselves, but don’t realise that this can erode their self-confidence over time. Should you require professional help in this area, please feel free to get in touch with me.