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Do you ever feel like you’re hanging on by a thread at work or like you’re “faking it until you make it” because you don’t actually have what it takes to make it?  Do you ever feel like you don’t belong or like somehow you don’t deserve the position you have at work or the professional accomplishments you’ve achieved, or worse that you aren’t qualified?

If you have experienced those feelings, then rest easy knowing that you are not alone because most people struggle with imposter syndrome at one point or another in their life. The Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as, “Doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.”  The question then becomes how do you deal with and overcome imposter syndrome.

Most experts will say overcoming imposter syndrome starts with acknowledging your feelings and putting them into perspective.  By doing that, you can begin to deconstruct and overcome the negative thoughts by letting them go.  The only thing that sets people with imposter syndrome apart from those who don’t have imposter syndrome is how they respond to criticism, feedback, and outside input. For example, a person who uses constructive criticism to become a better professional rather than perceiving constructive criticism as a slight, or evidence that they are in fact not qualified for the position, is a person who doesn’t suffer from imposter syndrome.  It is a mental shift and a conscious decision to see things differently.

Women and people of color in particular struggle with imposter syndrome because for far too long, we have been told that we should be “grateful” for occupying positions and spaces that have always been dominated by white males and from which we have actively been barred.  When you are in the minority or the “only” in any situation and especially in the workplace, it is easy to internalize feelings of not belonging or not measuring up.  While you are of course capable of doing the work, you end up riddled with self-doubt and asking yourself questions of your worthiness or deservedness to be there.

So, how do you change the narrative?

Remember what you do well and allow yourself to take pride in your accomplishments.

You were hired for a reason. If you weren’t qualified, you wouldn’t be in the position you have. Take a moment to do a realistic self-assessment of your skills and abilities. Write down the things you are truly good at as well as the areas where there is room for improvement.  Recognizing your strengths gives you a direction for where you know you can add the most value and be successful.  Reviewing your areas for improvement lets you know where there is room for growth and where you can focus professionally to overcome areas you may feel more insecure about.  Allowing you to shift your focus from your feelings and turning them into actions to maximize and improve your work performance which can also increase your confidence.

Realize that no one is perfect!

A lot of imposter syndrome stems from comparing ourselves with others.  We see people we admire achieving or attaining things we would like to achieve and attain ourselves.  However, we perceive them as great or talented, and ourselves as somehow less than or “not good enough.”  The simple fact is that most successful people got to where they are with a combination of talent and luck.  By luck I mean, something that gave them a leg up, a great boss, professional connections or influential network, benefitting from good timing etc.  The key is to focus on yourself and what you want and not to allow yourself to be derailed by what others have and what others are doing. Everyone’s path to success is different, so stay on your path.

Remember what you do well and allow yourself to take pride in your accomplishments.  You were hired for a reason. If you weren’t qualified, you wouldn’t be in the position you have.

Consider talking to mentors, trusted friends and loved ones about feeling like an imposter.

If you are able to open up and articulate how you are feeling, people in your life with more experience can help you understand that what you are feeling is normal and be a reassuring voice and presence. Hearing from others about their experiences with imposter syndrome can help you find new and different ways to cope with your feelings or give you a new perspective or ideas to tackle your feelings. Conversely, you can consider mentoring those who are junior to you. In so doing, you will realize how far you’ve come professionally, how much knowledge you’ve gained, and understand the unique value add your talent and experience offer.  However, if you are really struggling seeking the support of a professional psychologist can help you delve more deeply into your feelings and help you identify actionable solutions for overcoming your feelings.

The bottom line is most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let self-doubt and negative feelings control your actions.

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