We’ve all experienced imposter syndrome at one time or another and know it’s not a good feeling. Even if you’ve taken the steps to combat those feelings of doubt and insecurity—and for the most part have parted ways with imposter syndrome—it’s understandable that it might creep back into your life from time to time.
As we make progress in life, it can be easy for waves of imposter syndrome to rush in, so we’re looking at some manageable steps we can take when imposter syndrome begins to rear its ugly head again.
1. Identify your feelings
The first step toward stopping imposter syndrome in its tracks is not going to be a fun one (fun is coming though!). You need to really sit with the discomfort of imposter syndrome to uncover why you’re feeling the way you are. In some cases, it may be easy to identify why a recent event triggered these feelings; in other cases, imposter syndrome may have slowly crept back into your life bit by bit and it will be harder to understand why.
If you’re feeling less than, insecure, or unworthy in any way regarding a recent achievement or the life you’ve built, you’ll really have to do the work to find out why you can’t welcome positive occurrences into your life without guilt or doubt. Maybe you had a former boss who criticized your every move. Perhaps a toxic personal relationship from your past made you feel like you weren’t good enough at anything you did. In some cases, humility may simply take a step too far in the wrong direction. Take some time to journal, consult a trusted loved one, or speak with your therapist about these feelings, and the answers will begin to come to you.
2. Separate your feelings from the facts
Now that you’ve identified your feelings, can you separate them from the facts? It might be helpful to bust out a pen and paper here. Draw a line down the middle of the page. Label the left column “feelings” and the right column “facts.” In the feelings column, add all of the feelings you identified earlier. Then in the facts column, write down the fact that correlates with each feeling. For example:
Feeling: My college degree didn’t prepare me for my new job.
Fact: My work experience and informal education efforts (online courses, conferences, research) make me qualified for the position. That’s why I was hired.
Keep this list and refer back to the facts whenever you need to remember why your imposter syndrome needs to hit the road.
3. Create a “you’re a badass” list
Pardon our French, but you are a badass and you need to acknowledge that in writing. Create a list of your accomplishments that you can reference when you need a morale boost, but don’t stop there. Write down everything you did to get where you are in life— every single thing. If you’re doubting your professional success, write down every unpaid internship, every class you aced, every time you went above and beyond on a work project. Don’t hold back.
Maybe you’re an entrepreneur whose business recently got some good press and now you feel like you can’t live up to expectations. Add all your positive reviews and sales numbers to your badass list, and estimate how many late nights and weekends you’ve spent hustling to grow your business.
Don’t ever let yourself forget why you’re such a badass.
4. Pump it up
We all have that favorite song or workout routine that gets our blood pumping and puts us in an “I got this” kinda mood. Turn up that playlist, go for that run, do whatever it is that makes you feel amazing, and soon enough you’ll forget all about those imposter syndrome feelings that were about to take hold. If you have a dog, now is a really good time to go to the grocery store and come home to an adoring fan.
5. Call your support system
Speaking of fans, now is also a great time to call your mom, who probably thinks you’re the best and will be happy to remind you why. A romantic partner, best friend, or trusted colleague can also step into this role. There is no need to tackle imposter syndrome feelings on your own. It’s more than OK to ask for support in times of doubt and confusion.
6. Play devil’s advocate
Let’s try a little role play. Character one will be Imposter Syndrome. Character two, will play Devil’s Advocate. Listen to what Imposter Syndrome is telling you and ask yourself what the Devil’s Advocate would say in response. This is a great exercise when you’re on the go or need to quickly banish doubt from your mind before a big presentation, job interview, or when asking for a raise. Whatever “points” your imposter syndrome makes, try to offer a counterpoint. Remember those counterpoints, they’ll serve you well.
7. Acknowledge that these feelings will pass
To expect that you will never let imposter syndrome creep into your life is really unfair to yourself, and the fact that you’re feeling imposter syndrome is evidence that you care deeply about the situation, are a hard worker, and want to deserve the things you earn in life. Imposter syndrome comes from a good place inside of you, it just manifests itself in a really ugly way. When feelings of imposter syndrome appear, it’s totally acceptable to say to yourself, “these feelings are temporary and will pass.” Go for a walk, make a cup of tea, or just take a deep breath. Try your best to ignore those feelings, knowing they aren’t accurate and they aren’t here to stay.
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