How To Shake Off Imposter Syndrome
Have you ever found yourself thinking that it’s only a matter of time until people realise you’re a total fraud, that you don’t deserve any of the success that you’ve achieved and that you have no idea what you’re doing? If so, say hi to my good pal imposter syndrome.
Also known as fraud syndrome, imposter syndrome refers to that yucky, niggling feeling that you’re lacking in talent, ability and competency - despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. It tends to affect women more than men (surprise, surprise) and creative types are high achievers are particularly prone to experiencing it.
Imposter syndrome often goes hand in hand with self-doubt, perfectionism and a fear of failure, and if you don’t recognise the symptoms and tackle it head on it can create roadblocks to success and even lead to self-sabotaging behaviour.
I wanted to write about this topic because imposter syndrome is something I’ve seen clients and dear friends struggle with, and it’s something I’ve had to face as well. These days I have a much better handle on it, but just a few short years ago it was really impacting my life.
At the time I truly felt as though failure was just around the corner, and so I actively avoided pursuing my ambitions so I wouldn’t be hurt if things didn’t work out. Whenever I had any little spark of an idea or dream, or thoughts like “what if…” or “maybe I could…” I would immediately shut it down because in my mind, unless I was 100% guaranteed to succeed, it wasn’t worth pursuing.
Now I understand that the only real way to fail is to give up and stop trying, and I’ve come to accept that there will be immense challenges to face and days when things go completely and utterly wrong, but that this doesn’t define me or mean that I’ve failed - rather its just a part of life and business.
I’ve also come to understand that pretty much everyone feels like they’re faking it til they make it, and the people who tend to succeed are the ones who hear that little voice saying they’re a failure or a fraud, realise that voice is lying, shrug it off and keep moving forward.
If you think imposter syndrome might be affecting your life, here are some tips to help combat it:
Fight doubt with evidence
Did you lose a customer or client and now you’re doubting yourself? Force yourself to silence that self-deprecating voice for a moment, take a deep breathe, and think of some concrete evidence that proves you’re capable. For example, “My last five customers/clients were thrilled with my work/product, so while I might not have hit the mark this time, the evidence suggests I’m actually very good at what I do.”
Stop comparing yourself to others
Constantly comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to trigger imposter syndrome. Sure, you need to do your market research and keep tabs on what your competitors (and your idols) are up to, but remind yourself that you’re only seeing what they’re choosing to project and you have no real way of knowing what their daily struggles or pain points are. Maybe their Instagram feed is perfect but their sales are really low this month. Or maybe their business is growing rapidly but they’re also dealing with a mountain of debt and staffing issues. You’ll never know their full story, so don’t get caught up in the comparison trap - that way madness lies.
Figure out what you’re afraid of
If you recognise the symptoms of imposter syndrome within yourself, take some time out to confront those feelings and figure out what it is that you’re afraid of. Often it’s not just a fear of failure (no one wants to fail!) but fear of success that’s blocking your path. Perhaps you’re worried that you can’t keep up with growing demand, or you don’t want to be seen as pushy or self-promoting.
Put aside some time, sit down alone with yourself and your thoughts and really face your fears head on. Grab a pen get it all out on paper - your fears, your doubts and 'what ifs' and worse case scenarios - everything. Often once thoughts of fear and self-doubt are voiced out loud or on paper and no longer just swirling about in your head they won’t have as much power over you, and once you see them written down you can start to implement strategies to combat and overcome them.
I hope this post has given you some insight into shaking off imposter syndrome if it affects you and your life. If you would like to share your story or thoughts on this topic you can shoot me an email or pop a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you out.
Lauren Dunne | Creative Director, Peppermint Studio