Many people feel like a fraud and doubt their abilities, despite having proved that they’re qualified in an area. It doesn’t matter how much praise they receive or how many degrees they’ve earned, they’re convinced they are less competent than they really are. They attribute their achievements to luck or coincidence and believe that one day people will discover that they are indeed a fraud. This phenomenon is called imposter syndrome.
Irene Tiefenthaler (2018), an early childhood professional development specialist, explains that women tend to feel imposter syndrome to a greater degree than men.
This may be because, throughout history, women (especially women of colour) have had to work twice as hard as men to attain the same position. Even today, women are often paid less than a man for the same job.
If you identify with some of the feelings or experiences above, know that you’re not alone.
Do you relate to these feelings of inadequacy? Do you feel undeserving of your success or hesitate to seek opportunities for personal or professional growth? Here are four strategies you can use to challenge imposter syndrome.
An excellent way to combat imposter syndrome is to challenge negative feelings about yourself. Purchase a journal and begin writing down your daily accomplishments. Acknowledge your past successes, no matter the size. Each success has value.
As you record every win, your self-confidence will grow. Maybe you’ll have the confidence to pursue the job you’re worthy of, try a new activity, or initiate a new friendship. Before you know it, the list will grow, along with your belief in yourself.
Be kind to yourself, especially when you feel inadequate or like a failure. Acknowledge your feelings. Give yourself permission to feel pain but then talk to yourself as you would to a friend to soothe those feelings. Know that you are not alone: many others feel this way at times.
As you normalize these feelings, you make room for kindness, respect, and self-compassion. As you practice self-compassion, it’s vital to remember that feelings do not always equal facts. For example, experiencing a sense of inferiority does not mean you are inferior.
Explore the root cause of these feelings, which will help you identify why you feel imposter syndrome. Did you grow up with constant criticism? Have you never been praised for your hard work? A therapist can help you explore the root cause of these feelings and learn to practice self-compassion instead of reverting to imposter syndrome.
Another way to overcome imposter syndrome is by focusing on yourself instead of comparing yourself to others. A common way we compare ourselves is by looking at social media. I too am guilty of scrolling through social media and understand how easy it is to compare my life to others. Some strategies to ease the harmful effects of social media are to set time limits on your viewing, unfollow specific accounts that don’t serve you, and only follow people or groups that make you feel good.
A final way to overcome imposter syndrome is to consider all the challenges you’ve overcome so far. Maybe you didn’t believe you would graduate, get a job, or start a business. Acknowledge your accomplishments and the hard work it took to get there. As you believe in yourself and own your successes, you’ll learn to accept the praise of others and own your well-deserved success.
Trained therapists can support you to become your best self. They can help you discover ways to be your best champion and uncover what’s been holding you back. Ultimately, you can learn to adopt new behaviours as you become your best self.
Always remember that life becomes easier when you are kind to yourself. Challenging imposter syndrome may take time and effort, but it’s worth it. In the end, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and ready to take on new challenges, roles, or opportunities.
Citation: Tiefenthaler, I. (2018). Conquering Imposter Syndrome. University of Montana Journal of Early Childhood Scholarship and Innovative Practice, 2(1), 1–4.
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