But I Feel Like a Fraud: Imposter Syndrome and How To Beat It



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

I can’t do that; I’m not important enough.

They are going to figure out I shouldn’t be here.

Why did they pick me? I’m just me.

Chances are you’ve thought this or something like this at least once. And I would be willing to bet my very best and beloved houseplants that you aren’t some fraud sneaking into spaces that you shouldn’t be in, and no one is looking to “out” you for being an imposter.

Imposter syndrome is a real psychological phenomenon when people doubt their accomplishments and abilities and have an innate and persistent, and often internalized, fear of being exposed as a fraud. You might write things off to chance or luck. The problem with imposter syndrome isn’t just being your own worst enemy: it’s the opportunities and chances you don’t take because you doubt your own abilities.

There are a few things you can start doing that might help you deal with the nasty inner voice that is surely holding you back:

Look for Evidence

What have you accomplished? Take a moment to write out a list of your accomplishments and keep it with you. I’m not talking about your full-on professional resume: I am talking about being aware of your worth. You are worth it, you have accomplished things, and you deserve to be here. Remind yourself.

If you’re struggling with this, write out three things that you’re proud of. It can be as simple as meditating once a week, making your bed or remembering to floss. Be specific, and honest.

Keep it Quantitative

Too often we’re adding “Oh, I’m just…” or “It’s not a big deal” or “I just got lucky” to our accomplishments. Get rid of anything qualitative, and stay with quantitative things. Stick to the facts.

Take a look at your list from the last point: did you rationalize any of it with a “well this is nothing” or some other qualitative statement that offers worth to something? Try to eliminate it. And now, add one or two more things that are “bigger” than those on the list. Maybe you did a great job on a work project or were assertive when you needed to be. Say all four to five things out loud in a clear and concise way. Don’t add any emotion to it!

Practice the Positive

You get the energy you put out. If you’re giving yourself all negative energy, you’re going to keep getting it back. Be nice to yourself and practice complimenting yourself. Think of one thing that you do feel good about: maybe you’re great at raising plants, or really amazing at copyediting. Give yourself a few compliments, and start to avoid the negative self-talk.

Take the things you’re proud of from the previous exercises, and turn one of them into a compliment. For example, if you are proud that you were assertive when you needed to be, maybe the compliment is, “I do a great job being assertive when the time calls for it.” Again, say it out loud, and start changing that negative self-talk to positive.

Remember: You are Human

It’s ok to feel like this once in a while. We’re all human; we might have a few negative thoughts. Don’t let them outweigh the positive. Imposter syndrome becomes an issue when it holds you back from potential opportunities. While we all do have some negative self-talk, if you immediately go to negative when anything positive happens, it might be a problem.

Give yourself some grace. If you’re not good to yourself, who will be?


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