Updated: Dec 6, 2021
"I don't deserve to be here, I am just the 'Girl Hire'."
"There are other people who could do this job better than me."
"People overestimate me. I'm really not that capable."
If you have ever experienced Impostor Syndrome, you know how crappy it feels. You doubt your skills, talents or accomplishments, and carry a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud." It's exhausting, disheartening and demotivating.
And for the most part, it's a con. Imposter syndrome has nothing to do with objective measures of efficacy or accomplishment. Even the most competent and successful people fall for the malicious messaging. And it's not just an individual problem. Organizations suffer when their talented employees spend time dwelling on negative self-talk.
So how does one manage this pernicious pattern of doubt?
Here are five strategies to doubt your inner doubter.
(Auditory learners can listen to the podcast episode here)
1) Recount Your Skills, Talents and Accomplishments
External validation doesn't counteract Imposter Syndrome. You're going to have to uncover validation from within. Recall the projects, past successes or situations that have led to you getting the job or being chosen to lead the team. You didn't trick everyone into thinking you were competent. It's time to unearth the skills, talents and accomplishments that got you where you are. (Need help? Check out the You at Your Best workbook that I created for this purpose).
2) Shift Your Perception of How Talents Develop
People can get into a cycle of self-doubt when they hold a fixed mindset. In a fixed mindset, one believes that talents are fixed. Either you got it, or you don't. When you are in a new role or have recently been promoted, there's no way you can be an expert right away. Yet, many of us believe we should be. And that's when Imposter Syndrome has a ripe target to prey on.
When you shift your perception of how talents are developed, you move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. In the growth mindset, one believes that talents are malleable. In this perspective, talents can be cultivated through learning, practice and guidance. Shifting the belief of how talents are developed sounds insignificant, but this subtle change can lead to greater self-compassion, renewed motivation and identifying new strategies. (If you want to learn more, I've written about the growth mindset here and here).
3) Parent Your Inner Child
What the WHAT?! Yes. I just told you to parent your inner child. If you are feeling like an imposter-- inadequate and unworthy-- chances are you need to offer yourself some unconditional love. Each of us has younger parts in our consciousness. Parts that remember what it felt like to be called on in class and not know the answer. Parts that totally messed up a piano recital and never played again (who me?!). These are the parts that want to hide when the Inner Doubter shows up. So, we have to close our eyes and go to them. Give 'em a big hug. Tell them you know they're afraid. Be the mature, loving voice you need to hear.
4) Seek Out Mentorship
Ask for help. Find a mentor. Find someone in your company or industry who can offer advice, guidance and support. There is nothing more reassuring than a person who has been there, done that to help you navigate the challenges you are facing.
5) Request Feedback
Most of us suffer because we don't know how we're actually doing on the job. Am I doing well? Crappy? Does my boss think I suck? Does everyone think I suck?
The truth is, your boss is probably too busy or not in the habit of giving useful feedback. And that's too bad. Great bosses are hard to come by. But that doesn't mean you can't take initiative and request feedback.
I'd go about this one tactic carefully-- especially if you feel vulnerable or if your boss doesn't have high emotional intelligence. However, if you structure the ask in the right way it can yield helpful insights.
To structure the conversation, ask your boss for two types of feedback.
A) Constructive feedback (What went well last week/quarter? What did I do well on that project/engagement?)
B) And, constructive feedforward (What specifically can I work on for next time? )
Those are some strategies that can help you doubt the inner doubter and take back control of how you think about yourself.
Do you have strategies that have worked for you? Please share them in the comments!