“I’m not qualified for this job.” “I didn’t major in business in school.” “I feel like a fraud.” “There’s someone else who could do this job better than I can.”
Have you ever had any of these self-negating thoughts? More than likely, at one point or another in your life, you’ve experienced what psychologists label “imposter syndrome.” Put simply, imposter syndrome is the tendency to discount your own successes and doubt your abilities. The term first appeared in the early 1970s, when two researchers, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes studied a group of successful women and began to notice a trend among their subjects. Clance and Imes discovered that many of the women they studied were plagued by what they labeled the imposter phenomenon, or the persistent belief that “they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” Ironically, imposter syndrome often plagues high-achieving, successful individuals who are the only ones who see themselves as imposters or frauds. High-profile professionals and celebrities like Kate Winslet and Sheryl Sandberg admit to struggling with imposter sydrome, while research has shown it especially affects women and minorities more frequently than men.
Given the prevalence of imposter syndrome, especially among business professionals and executives, it’s worth discussing what a person can do to minimize the self-deprecating thoughts that may hinder workplace success and performance. If you’ve ever struggled with imposter syndrome, consider the following tips to reduce your intellectual self-doubt:
Label your thoughts and emotions
The first step to identifying your imposter syndrome is recognizing what drives you to negate your abilities. Perhaps you catch yourself thinking, “I’m a fraud,” or perhaps your imposter syndrome manifests more subtly when you second guess yourself or feel insecure about your abilities. Whatever form the thoughts and emotion that fuel your imposter syndrome take, try to begin recognizing and identifying them as false and unconstructive.
After you identify the thoughts and emotions that fuel your imposter syndrome, find safe friends or colleagues you can discuss your feelings with. If you open up and share your vulnerabilities with a trusted friend, you can gain a valuable outside perspective to help affirm your abilities and boost your self-confidence.
Focus on your accomplishments
In the midst of intellectual self-doubt, try to step back and think about what you do well or qualities you like about yourself. Changing your imposter syndrome mindset could as simple as redirecting your thought processes when confronted with an anxiety-producing scenario. Nervous about an upcoming presentation? Instead of thinking, “I’m not qualified to give this presentation and everyone will know it,” tell yourself, “I know what I am talking about and I will project confidence and professionalism to my colleagues.” If you reframe your thinking through positive self-affirmations, you can eventually begin to shift your mental paradigm.
Have you ever struggled with imposter syndrome? What has helped you to overcome it? Let us know in the comments below!