Conquering Imposter Syndrome in 12 Steps

As simple or harmless as one might think it is, having Imposter Syndrome can eventually create a hindrance in an individual’s everyday routine. From feeling like you do not belong in a business meeting to thinking you are a fraud charging people money, this condition can lead to massive challenges in one’s life. Fortunately, there is a way out. It starts from inside your head. And that is precisely where it needs to be addressed. 

Conquer Your Imposterism

Making small changes in your thought processes, perspectives, and everyday lifestyle can lead to massive improvements. Here are 12 steps to help you defeat Imposter Syndrome on your own.

1. Identify Your Feelings of Imposter Syndrome

People are often afraid of being labeled with a disease. However, giving a name to your issues can sometimes be the first step towards solving them. If you never identify your problem, you can never make peace with it or move onto finding possible solutions. Finding a name for your symptoms can make you feel less burdened and helps you realize that there are others who feel the same way. 

Do you think you have imposter syndrome because of specific signs and symptoms, or are you clinically diagnosed with it? Loosely defined, Imposter Syndrome is characterized by an individual who continuously doubts his abilities and feels like a fraud. Also called an imposter phenomenon, the fraud syndrome, or impostorism, this condition is a psychological one and forces the affected individual to doubt his/her talents, skills, and abilities. Anyone struck by this syndrome persistently underestimates their accomplishments and has a continuous internal fear that they will be exposed for their fraudulent activities. 

If you think you fit into this definition, make sure you consult a mental health specialist to confirm a diagnosis. Identify the problem so that you can move on to the next step. 

2. Accept Your Imposterism

Once you get a green light from a professional, the next step is to make peace with it and accept it. Most individuals suffering from imposter syndrome find it hard to wrap their heads around it. Denial takes the spotlight and cancels out all the rational thinking. This mental state frustrates the individual over time. It keeps them away from addressing the issue properly and finding appropriate solutions for their problem. The longer it takes for the individual to accept the reality, the harder it gets for them to look for help. 

However, it is also important to remember that denial is a part of normal human reaction, and it is somewhat expected. Different people have different responses when they are diagnosed with a mental condition. Some take it easy and accept it rather quickly. These people move on towards the next stage and find help immediately. This way, they address their problems and solve them before they get worse. On the contrary, people who find it hard to accept that they have Imposter Syndrome spend more time in denial and slowly move away from the possibility of ever getting help. If they spend too much time in denial, these people have a hard time coming back to their senses and accepting reality. 

3. Stop Trying to Hide Your Feelings 

Having Imposter Syndrome is not something you need to be embarrassed about. It is not a “shameful disease,” and it is certainly not your fault. Hence, stop hiding it and being ashamed of it. Instead, break the silence and start acknowledging your situation. Start being more open about it with friends and family with whom you are comfortable. Doing this will have three benefits: 

One, you will start giving yourself the acceptance that you deserve. It will bring back a large portion of the self-confidence that you lost by being ashamed of your mental health. 

Two, once your friends and family know, they will understand you better and support you in your hard time. Even though healing comes from within, sometimes, your beloved ones can give you a boost of motivation and push you to be a better person. 

Three, you might find other people in your circle and outside who relate to your problems. These people will find inspiration from you. Plus, it can be tremendously helpful to know that other people can relate to you and you are not alone. 

4. Identify the Facts and the Feelings

Imposter syndrome can make you feel plenty of different emotions. It can affect your mental health, bring down your self-confidence, and whisper things in your ear, most of which are not valid. For example, a large portion of people who experience Imposter Syndrome feels guilty and stupid.

An essential part of recovering from this is to acknowledge that you are not, in fact, stupid. It is only Imposter Syndrome that is making you think that you are. Separating your feelings from facts can be incredibly helpful. It helps you realize that what you are feeling is not your own mind but the works of a disease or condition. Hence, you need not pay heed to those thoughts. 

Similarly, when you feel guilty of committing a crime, self-reflect. Have you really done something that you should feel guilty of, or is it your Imposter Syndrome playing games with you? More often than not, it is the latter.

Try to recognize your talents.

5. Recognize Normal Behaviors

As mentioned earlier, some feelings, behaviors, and responses are entirely normal. They are a part of a natural phenomenon and are not indicative of a syndrome or a mental issue. You must recognize and identify which behaviors are normal and which are not. For example, if you are significantly older than most people sitting in a room, it is normal for you to feel like you do not exactly fit in. You might feel like an odd one out. But there is nothing wrong with that because, in the said situation, you are an odd one out! Differentiating between normal and pathological behavior can help you separate your true personality from an altered one. 

It also helps you rationalize your responses and not blame everything on your Imposter Syndrome. Some people give in to their mental condition and start justifying every response by connecting it to their impostorism. Doing this can be toxic for them and the people around them. Moreover, it takes them miles away from solving their issues. 

6. Be Kind to Yourself

Accentuate your positivity and try to see the silver lining in every aspect of your personality. Be a perfectionist but go easy on yourself. Be kind to yourself and be appreciative of your efforts and skills. Strive to produce excellent results and work hard.

However, at the same time, do not put unnecessary or unrealistic expectations for yourself. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. Understand that errors are inevitable and forgive yourself for them. Learn from your blunders and try not to make them again. Do not burden yourself with guilt over every minor mistake you make. Consider them as hiccups and speed bumps in your way and move on as fast as possible. The sooner you learn to forgive yourself, the faster you will be able to defeat Imposter Syndrome. 

7. Learn to Accept Failure 

Even though both of these concepts are sometimes put forth simultaneously, accepting your mistakes is different from learning how to accept failure. However, both are equally important. Do not beat yourself up if you fail. You always have a second chance as long as you have the power, courage, and confidence to do it again. And even if you do not have another try, learn to accept a lost match, make peace with it, and move on. Again, living under the unnecessary burden of failure will only make Imposter Syndrome worse. Instead of persistently thinking about it and beating yourself up, identify your mistakes. Think about what you could have done better and decide whether you want to go for it again or let it go for good. 

8. Correct Your Rules

Someone who is suffering from Imposter Syndrome has set rules when it comes to living everyday life. For example, some people supposedly pledge that they would never ask anyone for help and that they should always have all the solutions and answers. No matter how stuck or helpless they are, they will never ask anyone for information or any sort of aid. From not knowing how to make a grilled cheese sandwich to figuring out how to make a report at the office, such people will always try to get everything on their own. They will wait for other people to figure out that they are having trouble but will not ask for help themselves. In some cases, this behavior can have massive disadvantages in both social and work life. It can have you lose your job, or you could make a significant blunder. 

And as good as it is to be hardworking and self-sufficient, such rules set unnecessary expectations from the individual who is only a human being. Living under these standards is definitely challenging and can have a massive toll on one’s mental health. Remember, you are allowed to make mistakes and admit that you do not have an answer. After all, you are a human, not Google. 

Write the Rules Again

Once you identify the unnecessary and unfair rules in your script, cancel them out and write new ones. Be conscious about the thoughts inside your head and what you say to yourself when you are in a situation. Do not let your brain speak negatively about you. Instead, force the conversations to turn into something more positive. Change your thoughts from “let them figure out I don’t know how to do it” to “I am new at this, and if I ask for help, I will certainly get better.” 

Similarly, instead of feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by your seniors and colleagues, think about how much you can learn from them and make trustworthy friends in a good environment. Start changing your thoughts and perspectives one at a time. Slowly but eventually, you will stop thinking like an imposter. 

9. Get a Coach or Mentor

Having a personal coach or mentor to bounce things off of is a critical step in eliminating imposter syndrome. Having an outside perspective of what you are going through helps give us clarity we would not otherwise have.

A mentor makes figuring out the next steps much easier. A mentor is someone who has already been where you want to go or has done what you want to do. Many times, their advice is priceless. Just be sure to keep in mind, you are not trying to copy or mimic them. If you compare yourself to them, you may worsen the feelings of imposter syndrome.

Coaches are trained to recognize these symptoms and can help you stay true to your path of success and your recognition of your talents and skills.

10. Start Visualizing the End of the Tunnel

Have you thought about what your personality will be like once you successfully get rid of imposter syndrome? What do you think your everyday life will look like? What would be your thoughts and behavior in a room full of diverse audiences? If you have not thought about it yet, it is time to start thinking. Start visualizing the end of your healing process. It is not harmful or embarrassing to daydream about being a better, more secure person. 

On the contrary, doing this will help you be more motivated towards your goal and regain a lot of self-confidence. In fact, this is a technique that professional athletes use. They spend quite a lot of time visualizing themselves as successful players. They also practice answering the questions of the media and making public appearances beforehand. Doing this can calm, prepare them, and motivate them to do better and achieve their goals. Foster a growth mindset to assist you in visualizing the success you want to experience.

11. Make Rewards A Habit

Very often, people suffering from Imposter Syndrome believe that they are guilty and should not be rewarded. They do not think that they deserve any appreciation, rewards, or pampering, which is entirely wrong. Even if they start to believe that they can be rewarded, they treat it as a goal rather than a task, a habit, or something they rightfully deserve. They seek validation from other people to believe that they deserve something. In worse scenarios, when people do offer appreciation and validation, they dismiss it. They simply cannot accept the fact that they rightfully deserve to be rewarded or at least appreciated. 

An essential part of conquering Imposter Syndrome is to unlearn this concept. You must stop seeking validation from other people to feel like you deserve something. Moreover, if someone offers their validation, appreciation, or reward on their own, you must learn how to accept it and feel deserving of it. 

12. Act Like You’re Starting from the Top 

“Fake it till you make it” may sound cliche, but it applies here too. Most people wait to reach a certain level of “success” before they allow themselves to feel confident. Do not do that! Instead, learn to feel confident now and start stepping out of your comfort zone. Change your thoughts, responses, and behaviors and let them show through you and your personality.

Even if it has been only 24 hours since you started trying, consider yourself successful already. Feel that you are already much better, and let it show through your body language. Once you change the way you think about yourself, you will start to feel more secure and like less of an imposter. This way, your confidence will rise even more, and the positive cycle continues. 

In Conclusion

Conquering imposter syndrome can be challenging. It can have mild to severe effects on one’s everyday life and can have a significant impact on how one views themself. But believe it or not, you can get rid of it. A major part of the healing process is the motivation that comes from within you and your efforts to succeed. Start by changing what you say to yourself inside your head. Take a small step towards the confident you, you want to be. Relief will not come overnight, but slowly and eventually, you can get there.

The opposites of Impostor Syndrome is Illusory Superiority or Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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Aaron Jarrels, EzineArticles Basic Author

Aaron Jarrels

I am focused on helping anyone who wants to expand their reach. I help people overcome their limiting beliefs and show them how to gain the confidence to eliminate imposter syndrome that hinders success. I specialize in assisting people with shifting their mindsets and help them master the skills necessary to achieve professional and personal success.