I wanted to write about this topic last year, but guess what — I had an attack of imposter syndrome. I’m like, I’m not a trained counselor or therapist, who am I to talk about it.
Since then I did more research and had quite a few ah-ha moments, like the fact I had a textbook case of it. When it comes to the job search, I know I’m an expert. I’m confident in my knowledge of today’s hiring practices as well as the most effective strategies for people to land the jobs they want.
However, when it comes to talking about personal growth or anything spiritual, I feel uncomfortable giving advice because I’m not an expert. Both are a priority, but I’m still very much a work in progress.
That said, I’ve worked closely with over 250 people through their job search. They share intimate details about their life including times when they felt not good or ready enough to do their new job. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t had feelings of being an imposter at one point or another, including C-level execs.
Now I believe I have an inkling of something valuable to share.
Signs of imposter syndrome
Here’s my hypothesis on imposter syndrome. I believe every person has experienced it, especially when they start something new like a job, a class or even a hobby. We worry if we can actually do it and do it well.
For some people, they don’t have this feeling very often, but for many of us, this feeling is pretty familiar.
Here are some pretty common signs of imposter syndrome.
- You believe you’re the only one that has insecure feelings.
- You fixate on even the smallest mistakes you make.
- You discount your work by attributing the great results to luck or the team.
- You compare yourself to others who have achieved a lot more.
- Even if you’re proud of your work, it’s short-lived because you feel like you could have done better.
- You downplay your work, achievements and strengths: you feel uncomfortable when someone compliments you. You might throw a compliment back, laugh or change the subject.
We have this knack to make ourselves feel like we’re the only ones in the world who are suffering, which is incredibly isolating. When in fact, these are experiences that every human has felt.
Oftentimes, we suffer silently, which leads to an unhealthy state of mind. Imposter syndrome can hold us back from personal and professional growth. It can also cause anxiety and depression.
So how can we stop these feelings of unworthiness and anxiousness?
Ways to overcome imposter syndrome
The first thing is to stop comparing ourselves to others. I so love this quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
We can always find someone who’s done something better than us and someone who hasn’t. Neither feel good. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re letting our ego drive our thoughts and feelings. When we let go of comparing, we open up space to appreciate and take care of ourselves.
Another helpful thing is to create more awareness around judging yourself, putting you in the “bad” or “not as good as” side of things.
When you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, I applaud yourself for having awareness of it. Ask yourself if it’s true. For example, when I had a bad day, I might say something like “I’m terrible at managing events.” I can’t keep track of everything and nothing gets done.”
That is literally not true. When I managed events, everything that was important got done. And most events exceeded pipeline and revenue goals. So it’s helpful to recognize the pattern and then tell yourself that the thoughts are not true and they definitely don’t define you.
The next step is to focus on something positive about yourself. Like how a lot of people complimented me on how the booth looked or how the keynote speech went. You can also focus on what you’re grateful for — big and small. It can be for your job, working with great people, having an amazing support system, or even for the iPad working at the conference.
Lastly, you should share your feelings with a confidant. This is a good way to see if there’s a gap from your thoughts and reality. It can also help release negative emotions, which is often a great relief. And you’ll also get the positive feedback, support and love you deserve.
Try new exercises
- Write a list of all your accomplishments and failures. This is insightful as it surfaces how you’ve overcome obstacles, gained key learnings and pivoted to better things. Think about how many steps it took to accomplish something big. Or how you overcame failure and built resiliency. This helps build confidence that you can do it again (of course you can)!
- Journal your feelings the next time you’re feeling stuck. Start with a prompt like “What’s top of mind for me?” “How am I feeling about X?” Take a break, read it from the perspective of a close friend sharing their thoughts. Then write or think about how you’d respond to them. This is an opportunity to practice kindness and self-compassion.
- Write out your worst case scenario. Oftentimes fear is the most powerful and paralyzing obstacle. If you write out the worst, it can actually help you let go of it and move forward.I did this exercise the first year I started this business. I was afraid of the unknown and my inexperience as an entrepreneur. My business coach told me to write out the worst case scenario. For me that included going broke, living with friends and rejoining the corporate world. It didn’t feel like the best thing ever, but it felt like something I could bounce back from, eased a lot of my fears and gave me the room to grow the business.
Here are some of the resources that gave me greater insight into imposter syndrome. I hope you find them helpful.
- What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? Ted-Ed
- What is imposter syndrome?, Arlin Cuncic, Verywell Mind
- The surprising solution to the imposter syndrome, Lou Solomon, TEDx
- Articles on Thrive Global
- The gifts of imperfection, Brené Brown
Are you ready to, and anxious about making a strategic career move? Don’t let your fear stop you from getting your dream job. You deserve to be at a fantastic company that values all of your talents — where you can make an impact and grow your career.
We’d love to partner with you to successfully land a job you’ll love and thrive in.
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