Have you ever found yourself exhausted and overwhelmed because you constantly feel the need to prove yourself? To prove that you deserve your job, position, your seat at the table? If you have, you’re not crazy, you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is detrimental to your success because it has you focus on getting outside approval rather than doing the job at hand. Two very different things.
Imposter syndrome is defined as “not feeling successful despite evidence to the contrary” I believe this definition misses the mark. I’m an executive coach who specializes in helping women overcome their imposter syndrome and get to a point where they KNOW that they deserve their success. In working with my clients, and speaking with women in all kinds of industries, I’ve found that imposter syndrome is far more common than we think. Yes, those who suffer tend to overlook their successes, and they also tend to struggle with feeling worthy, and needing to prove themselves. Over 70% of women say that they have struggled with these beliefs in the course of their professional lives (Young, 2011).
Imposter syndrome isn’t a constant state- many of my clients find themselves feeling strong and capable one moment, and then like a fraud in the next. The rollercoaster can be exhausting, but the good news is that there’s a fix.
Have hope that you can overcome this by learning skills to redirect your brain when it veers towards the imposter syndrome rollercoaster. This is one of my favorite exercises to do with clients:
You’ll need: A sheet of paper and a pen.
- Write down ten accomplishments. (Each one needs to have meaning to you and evoke a sense of accomplishment and pride.)
- Carry this list around with you. You can fold it up and put it in your wallet or copy it out in the notes section of your phone- wherever it will be easily available to you at all times.
- Read this list every day. Make it part of your morning ritual, or the thing you read before you eat lunch- even better, rewrite it to yourself in an email every day.
- When your brain starts doubting you, pull out this list and read it again
- Think of it as your own personal set of affirmations.
I’ve had clients scoff at the ease of this exercise until they’ve practiced it a few times and see how impactful it is, so please try it for a week and see for yourself. How you speak to yourself matters. You are also your closest companion throughout the day. Would you speak down to your best friend the way you speak to yourself, or would you remind her of how deserving and capable she is? You have the power to change your thought pattern, your narrative, and how you feel.
Here’s the truth that often gets left out. There’s no forever fix to imposter syndrome, it will always find a way to resurface. We’d all like to be confident 100% of the time, but that’s not how it works, which is why I call myself, and the women I work with, “Recovering Imposters”. Armed with the right skills and tools, and with a regular practice, you’ll be able to redirect your thoughts from the normal Imposter track to the “I got this” track. How would that feel?
Written by Anna Hayes-Harless, The Imposter Syndrome Coach.