Imposter syndrome is hard: 7 strategies to become more authentic

Imposter syndrome is something that I come across a lot. In my practice I see a lot of successful people (although they probably wouldn’t describe themselves that way!).

In this article I’m going to discuss signs of imposter syndrome so you can identify it in yourself, then 7 simple strategies that you can use to combat imposter syndrome in your own life.

Imposter syndrome is very common

Up to 70 percent of people experience imposter syndrome at some point or another in their lives. But it’s particularly high in senior-level executives, leaders, managers, and entrepreneurs.

Signs of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is when you are plagued by a kind of malignant self-doubt that leaves you always feeling like a fraud, or a fake. You don’t believe that you achieved your position due to merit (even though you get positive feedback about your role), but because of fluke, fate, or being in the right place at the right time.

  • You feel isolated and you lack a sense of belonging
  • You fear making mistakes, so you tend towards triple checking and perfectionism
  • You believe you have to work harder than most people, because you feel that other people are more competent than you are.
  • You fear somehow being exposed as a fraud
  • You avoid feedback because you’re afraid of what you might hear
  • If you struggle with something, you feel like a failure – you’re sure that other people find it easier than you do
  • You find it hard to start new projects because new things don’t feel safe
  • You can’t acknowledge your own achievements, in fact you tend to downplay them
  • You don’t have joy in your achievements, you can’t celebrate your wins because deep down, you feel like you don’t deserve them 
  • Your self-image is characterised by self-doubt

Imposter syndrome may be your motivation

Imposter syndrome can be a driver of your success, because when you fear exposure and work very hard to cover that up, the hard work is what is noticed. Because you feel like a fraud, you put happiness into the future, when you achieve some future goal. 

This makes you goal-oriented. You’re likely to keep pushing to achieve yet another accolade or raise or bonus, because you think that when this goal happens, you will finally feel like you deserve your success. But the internal validation never happens and you become trapped in a vicious cycle. 

Imposter syndrome starts in childhood

Like most aspects of our identity, imposter syndrome begins to develop in childhood. A combination of personality and environment (our experiences) shapes our ideas about ourselves and our place in the world. 

We learn to put our best foot forward, to show only what is expected of us and acceptable to others. 

The problem develops when this split between what we show the world and the way we see ourselves on the inside makes us feel inauthentic. The public face we show the world may be reinforced by praise and positive feedback, which drives our shadow self deeper into hiding. This causes a deep internal conflict, which can present as imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome holds you back

You are so occupied with doubting yourself and hiding parts of yourself, that you cannot truly engage with the present or what you’re doing in the moment. When you’re constantly focusing on how you present yourself, you can’t form deep connections with your colleagues or your team or possibly even your peers. This hijacks your joy, and clouds your life. 

Success Formula: 7 simple strategies to combat imposter syndrome by becoming more authentic

  1. Acknowledge your inner critic 

Become aware of your own self-talk. Noticing what you say to yourself and how you say it is the first step towards changing it. 

  1. Express gratitude

There is substantial research to support how becoming more grateful leads to improvements in your personal wellbeing. Start a gratitude journal and write 3 new things in it, every single day. Make one of the things something you’re grateful for about yourself. This helps you to develop a more grateful mindset, as you scan yourself and your environment for new things to be grateful for.

  1. Own your mistakes

You can deliberately change your mindset to think about your mistakes in a different way. Remind yourself that to err is human, and that everybody makes mistakes. Talk to yourself in a different way, about your mistakes.

  1. Compare yourself to yourself

Stop doing the social comparison thing where you look at other people and compare yourself negatively to them. Yes, it’s true that you cannot be like other people, of course you can’t! You can only be you, and you need to work out your own strengths and weaknesses, and measure yourself against yourself. 

  1. Open your mind to new things

Embrace new things. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and see what happens. You might learn things that change your life.

  1. Seek external feedback

Get yourself a coach, a mentor, or a psychologist to give you non-judgemental but honest feedback. Research shows that most senior executives, managers and leaders don’t get the support they need to really grow in their roles. Mentoring and other supportive programs are more commonly offered to juniors, but as you take on more leadership roles, you have to sort this out for yourself. 

  1. Embrace your vulnerability

Embrace your fear. Acknowledge that EVERYBODY feels vulnerable about something, whether they show it or not. Everybody carries shame. Start expressing your feelings to your mentor or your therapist, and with their help, begin to express your vulnerability to certain trusted people in your peer group. 

As I write this article, I’m struck by how many of these signs of imposter syndrome still apply to me. When I was at university, I was a good student but I was haunted by imposter syndrome. When I made it into my university’s Clinical programme, I was convinced that I was a fraud, that I had gotten in due to a fluke, and that I didn’t deserve my place. 

I talked about it to my therapist, which helped but the feeling didn’t go away. So when we did group therapy training that year, we each had to bring something personal to the group – I decided to take the risk and expose my fear of being exposed. I cried a lot but there was a lot of relief too. 

After that, my imposter syndrome feelings improved. I wish I could say they went away completely but that’s just not true. Overcoming imposter syndrome is a practice, not a once-off decision. 

Owning who you really are is about coming to terms with yourself. Apply these 7 strategies, Booby, or at least any which resonate with you, to move your focus to building more authenticity into your life. As your public Self becomes more congruent with your private, internal Self, there is less conflict and less fear. And less imposter syndrome. 

Practising more authenticity enables you to lean into Who You Really Are, to feel more empowered and to live with more meaning and more joy. 

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