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Imposter Syndrome: What It Is & How to Overcome It

Are you having feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness? Maybe you feel as if you’re not qualified to do your job properly or maybe you don’t feel smart enough to achieve those top grades.  

You might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome

The good news? You’re not alone! 

What is “Imposter Syndrome”?  

Imposter Syndrome can be loosely defined as feelings of being inadequatedoubting your worth and feeling like a fraud. Whether that be at school or college, work or in everyday life, it is not an uncommon feeling. It’s considered to be a phenomenon (an experience) people often feel rather than a listed mental disorder.  

This pattern of self-doubt can affect anxiety and self-esteem and it can have a negative impact on self-worth and validation.  

6 common signs of Imposter syndrome: 

Imposter syndrome can be complex and recognising what it might feel like can be difficult. Here are some common signs of imposter syndrome that you might be experiencing: 

  • You’re a perfectionist. 
    When you’re committed to something, you give it your full attention to try to make it the best of the best. You might spend hours rewriting an essay or critiquing your work until you can’t stand it any longer. The truth is, perfectionism can just be a long and slow process of trying to prove your worth. 
  •  “Optimistic or Pessimistic?”, you’re most likely to answer: “Realistic”.  
    You often like to focus on what you haven’t achieved rather than celebrating your successes. You might often feel that you’re not being negative, you’re just being “realistic”. Like that time when you passed your test by luck, for example. 
    You regularly tell yourself that your successes happen by chance and some outside factor helped you out.  
    Spoiler: it was all you. Congratulations! 
  • You don’t take credit well. 
    Well done! You’ve excelled in your work!  
    “Oh no, eek, um, thanks, oh, really, it wasn’t because of me”
    [Nervous laughter]  
    Sounds like you? We know what that feels like!  
    You don’t like to take any credit or like to give yourself a pat on the back because you focus on what’s to come and all of the other things yet to achieve. It could be time to slow down and start living in the moment by soaking up some praise.  
  • You bad-mouth yourself. 
    It’s ok to be disappointed or upset with yourself but ultimately, you shouldn’t be harsh on yourself all the time.  You should be your own best friend. Hold yourself in high regard as if you are the best. There isn’t an award for the worst friend. That would be rubbish. 
  • You fear both success and failure.  
    Taking on something new and succeeding might scare you and make you want to take two steps away from added pressure. Equally, the idea of failure is crippling to you. You feel that your world is ending if you don’t ace your studies or get good feedback from a colleague on a project.  
  • You’re feeling pretty lost. 
    That overwhelming feeling that everyone around you seems to know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, but you feel lost in the commotion. You’re likely worried that people will discover you as a fraud and that you’re not up to scratch with everyone else.  

How do you overcome Imposter Syndrome? 

First things first, as Valerie Young expressed in her Ted Talk: ‘If you want to stop feeling like an imposter, then you must stop thinking like an imposter’. 

Step 1: Stop shrugging it off.  

You know (or should know by now!) that these feelings have a name: Imposter Syndrome and there is absolutely nothing taboo about it. So many of us are feeling this way, but not many of us are talking about it. Let’s start the conversation between family, friends and colleagues. You’d probably be surprised how many of us have experienced imposter-like feelings.  

Step 2: Tame your inner chimp. 

In the infamous mind-managing book, The Chimps Paradox, Steve Peters, the author of the book, explains that we all have an inner traitor that has a tendency to impulsively critique us.  
In the book, this saboteur is a chimp. The chimp can be full of self-doubt, low self-esteem and negativity. It often gets into the nooks and crannies of our mind, repeatedly telling us that we’re not capable enough.  
BBC Radio 4 lays out the eight steps, Steve, mentions in The Chimps Paradox on how to nurture the chimp and deal with that feeling of pessimism with the right tools.  

Step 3: Confidence and Positive Affirmations. 

Is confidence something that only a handful of people are just born with?  
Nope! You have the power to be confident in any situation. You might not be feeling super confident right now but Forbes shared three top tips on confidence techniques: “Become an actor, expand your body and dress for success”.  
When you start feeling low and in your head about yourself, stop. Grab a note pad and pen (not your notes app on your phone!) and start listing three things you are good at or have achieved recently.  
You might be good at making someone smile, making aesthetically pleasing study notes, initiating team work or maybe you recently gave a presentation on a project you were working on.  
Noting these positive achievements down are an affirmation to yourself to remember that you are amazing and capable of some pretty great things!   
Writing down notes using the good ‘old-fashioned’ pen and paper as opposed to typing on a keyboard has proven results of a higher level of effectiveness when remembering the information written – A psychological study by Mueller and Oppenheimer (2014).  

Step 4: Stop the comparison.  

Comparison is the thief joy

Theodore Roosevelt

I mean, he’s not wrong, is he? 
Remember, you are your own person with strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. We are all so original and harbor our abilities in various areas of life (school, life, work).  

You are where you are today because someone has recognised you for your unique attributes and talents, even if you cannot see them clearly enough for yourself yet.  

There we have it, we now know what imposter syndrome iscommon signs and steps you can take to overcome it. 

Want to beat that imposter feeling? Speak to a life coach at Ceed, who will assist you on your journey to overcoming imposter syndrome.  

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