Column: How to battle your imposter syndrome

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Ever felt like a complete fraud? Do you carry the dark and deep believe that your achievements are just sheer luck? Ever said to yourself: ‘I must not fail’ or ‘Success is no big deal’? This phenomenon, known as the imposter syndrome, makes you (mostly women) believe that you are inadequate and incompetent despite facts showing otherwise.

Often women battle the imposter syndrome even if they are very skilled and successful. According to different studies 70% suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in their career. Maybe you too struggle with your self-confidence. However, this is not the same as suffering from low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. It also has nothing to do with pretending to be a pilot or a surgeon. Don’t you think this might be unfair… to yourself?

You should start to embrace your skills and capabilities. But you are not alone; some of the most successful people in the world experienced this. Join the imposter club together with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Starbucks Howard Schultz (yes even some men suffer from it), Arianna Huffington or even Michelle Obama.

For too long girls have been told they don’t belong in boardrooms or any room where big decisions are being made. They always second guess their abilities, doubt their own judgement and this way they keep playing simple and small and they are not standing in their power. Why should they doubt themselves if they are already in the room? Time to recognize those negative thoughts and deal with them accordingly. These thoughts can be altered in your mind by turning fear down and developing trust in your own ideas. 

What kind of imposter are you?

If you have tendencies to be a perfectionist, a superwoman, the natural genius, a soloist or the expert you should be extra cautious and on the lookout for this syndrome. Dr. Valerie Young expert on the subject described the subcategories very accurately in her book.

1. The perfectionist

Do you feel everything must always be 100% perfect all the time? Your expectations are so high even for yourself and you feel down and frustrated when they don’t match? Even when they are successful it is not good enough. 

Solution: Truth is perfection doesn’t exist, the sooner you accept that the sooner you will get rid of negative feelings.  

2. The Superwoman

Do you push yourself harder and harder? You work more and longer than colleagues? Do you feel downtime is a waste of time? You are a workaholic and get validation from working not from what you do. 

Solution: Find and convince your inner voice to applaud your efforts and achievements and grow your inner confidence. 

3. The natural genius

Always telling yourself that you have to master something really quick? Feeling ashamed that learning something not with ease is shameful? 

Solution: As with everything you are a work in progress. Don’t feel bad when you need time to achieve something, that is natural. 

4. The soloist

Never have to courage to ask for help? Feeling a failure if you do?

Solution: It is ok to be independent, but don’t let this quest for perfection get you from getting the help, you need in order to prove you can do it all… alone. 

5. The expert

Do you fear that you don’t know enough? Do you fear that someone will call your inexperienced? 

Solution: Of course, you don’t know all. But thinking you don’t know enough is killing your vibe. Longtime learning is important, don’t limit your achievements. There is no shame in not knowing everything. Share what you know, and it will help others and help you feel more confident.  

5 tips to alter your own mindset and battle this mind game

  1. Talk about your feelings: Don’t be ashamed of your feelings. You are not alone. Talk about them and you will find allies very quickly. 
  2. Separate feelings from facts: It’s not because you feel like a fraud that you are. 
  3. Visualize your success: Picture yourself holding the winning hand, your stress level will drop.
  4. Pat yourself on the back regularly: You are working hard and achieving goals, treat yourself from time to time. 
  5. Formulate a new response to failure and mistake making: Do what champions do acknowledge your failure, learn the lesson, get up and move on. 

The best way to stop feeling as an imposter is to stop thinking as an imposter. They only one who can control you is you. Remember those people in that boardroom are all human. They made mistakes in the past and even must have doubted themselves at some point. Try to be your own cheerleader even in the face of rejection, if people tell you you’re not good enough, if people tell you are a fraud (especially when this is not justified at all) or when the little devil on your shoulder tries to convince you that what you achieved is not important.

And remember this: Kanye West’s announcement he is considering  to become America’s next president is a great reminder that men look at a job description and think “Hey, I am not remotely qualified, but think I could do that.”. Apply for all the jobs, women. You don’t need fraud to get there. Yes, you can!

This column has been written by @VALERIE THYS

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