If You Want Ultimate Career Success, You're Going to Have to Ditch Your Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome: it’s one of the biggest hurdles we can face throughout our career.
It’s that nagging voice that says “you are not qualified for this role” and “someone is going to call you out one of these days” even though you ARE totally qualified and ALREADY do amazing work.
I want to start this blog by fully admitting that I struggled with imposter syndrome for MANY years. For the majority of my schooling, training, and the early part of my career, I felt like I was living a life I did not deserve even though I was fully qualified for every single position I accepted.
Looking back at my early career, I nailed my presentations and interviews, overachieved, went above and beyond, won awards, networked, volunteered, and knew all of the specific steps required to be a successful professional, but even with all of this... I never really felt like I deserved the job. To this day, I don’t fully understand where this belief stemmed from or why those feelings existed – they just did.
Fast forward a few years and I am happy to announce that the annoying self-doubting life is behind me. I finally learned how to appreciate my strengths, acknowledge my accolades, accept my uniqueness (and quirkiness!), and find the confidence that I deserve.
Now that I am a recovering imposter, let's talk about what all of this actually means and how you can conquer this feeling.
What is Imposter Syndrome and How it can Really Damage You
Imposter syndrome, by definition, “reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.”
Though much of imposter syndrome is an internal battle, other people can reinforce your feelings of self-doubt.
When someone says: “wow, you are so lucky you got that job,” it solidifies your feelings of being an imposter. And there are many minimizing tactics people can use to make you feel like you don’t deserve your dream job. Everyone from a difficult boss to a jealous coworker finding fault in everything you do can make your imposter syndrome worse.
So, here’s the REAL truth about all of this imposter business: There are no rules as to who should be doing what job, who is meant to land a specific role, or which specific breed or type of person is cut out for a unique job.
Ultimately, YOU create your own career happiness.
YOU create your own success.
No one else can do this for you, and no one else should be able to take it away from you.
Did you hear me? No one else but YOU can do this.
In fact, chances are that if you are reading this blog and have identified with some of the comments I’ve made, you are highly qualified and deserve to be in the role you are in even if you worry that you’ll be called out for being a “faker.”
How You Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Now, I realize some of the statements I am going to say will be much easier said than done, but recognizing that you are suffering from imposter syndrome is the first step to beat it.
The number one way to overcome imposter syndrome is to actually change the way you think about yourself.
Yes, you heard me: you need to change the way you think about YOURSELF.
Here’s the thing: feeling like an imposter is just a FEELING. That’s all there is to it.
If you are constantly doubting yourself as to whether or not you are living the life you deserve, then take a step back. Remember what specific steps you took to actually land the position you are currently in and how much blood, sweat, and tears you put into your career to get to where you are now.
If you’re feeling like an imposter, here are some life altering questions you can ask yourself to combat the imposter in you:
Think back and ask yourself WHY you went into this career route?
Use this answer to guide you and influence you: How much energy have you put into this career to land you into this role? What are your prior experiences to make you a perfect fit for this position? What sacrifices have you made to get into the role you are in?
Write all of these answers down and logically (not when you are feeling irrational about yourself) reflect on your experiences.
Pin these answers up on your desk or mirror and look at them EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
If you are feeling bold, share them with a trusting friend. Allow yourself to have an appreciation for your hard work. Let it sink in. Relish yourself with your accomplishments.
I am not kidding, this stuff works!!!
Should You Fake it Until You Make it?
Initially, yes. I’ve coached many imposters to “fake it until you make it.”
The truth is that, during the beginning phases of combating the imposter in you, faking it really works. I promise. Repeating steps 1-4 above is another important part of beating the imposter, and leaning into the “fake it until you make it” mantra to help you along the way.
Speaking for myself here, I mentioned “faking it until I was making it” to one of my mentors who I really look up to, Craig and his response to me was: "Ashlee, you're not faking it anymore, you really, really know what you're doing!"
WOW… That was a good feeling and even more so because I realized it was true! For the first time, it hit me… I am actually doing okay. :)
If you take a step back for a second, and think how far you’ve come from, IT WILL hit you: you have grown into that confident professional you initially never imagined yourself being. People will start turning to you for advice because YOU are that expert, and YOU have earned yourself this role.
Fighting that Inner Critic
You see, imposter syndrome is the voice of your inner critic, who is informed by your ego that’s constantly trying to keep you safe.
However, it’s also the voice that will stop you from taking risks in situations where you might fail, even if there’s an almost zero chance of that happening.
As good natured and protective as this voice seems, listening to it can actually set you back.
This negative voice inside your head WILL hold you back and prevent you from living your best self.
One thing that works for me is to remember that the voice is not really me – and that I actually DO want to take risks and safety is overrated.
You can directly combat this nagging voice by figuring out what makes you feel the best about yourself.
What works best for me is meeting with my business coach weekly (major shout out to Danielle!!!), I attend workshops and business retreats, I read a ton, and I constantly surround myself with colleagues, friends, and family that positively contribute to my personal and professional life.
It also helps when I open my giant box of thank you notes/cards that clients have sent me over the years. I absolutely love my work, and it is clear that whatever I am doing IS working… You see, reflecting on your accomplishments is a major part of the recipe to combat the imposter!
And, if you need to start getting over your imposter syndrome by faking it until you make it – do it! Once you do make it, however, it’s time to let go of that voice and embrace your own professional confidence.
Finding Your Support System and Mantra
Once you can admit to struggling with imposter syndrome, it’s time to find a support system and mantra that will get you through the tough times and help you succeed.
If you don’t have a trustworthy coworker or a friend who you admire professionally, search online for groups of people that have similar interests as you. I am a member of a variety of different women’s entrepreneur groups. These women are an amazing support system and, most importantly, they openly reaffirm my aspirations and successes.
You should also develop a personal mantra. Build a barrier from people in your life who continuously contribute to your imposter. Once you figure out who those people are, it’s time to immediately say BYE FELICIA to those people.
To work on your confidence, overcome imposter syndrome, and really love the job you’re doing, I am always here for you. You can always consider me your business partner, your career strategist, and your #1 fan who wants to see you succeed and beat the heck out of that imposter in you.
Now, let’s get to work kicking that imposter to the curb and giving your true self a chance to shine without any self-doubt.