Have you ever felt like a fraud in your life? Maybe you feel this way at work, in your hobby, or another area of your life. This internal belief that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be is called Imposter Syndrome. According to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, approximately 70% of people experience impostor feelings at some point in their lives. While it is comforting to know that the majority of people will experience this at some point in their lives, it doesn’t teach you how to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
What Imposter Syndrome Can Feel Like
You might feel like a phony. Self-doubt can cause you to downplay your abilities and fear that you will be exposed for being “less than” what others perceive you to be. Imposter syndrome can show up in many different areas of your life. Wherever you are experiencing it, you might feel as if you got there by accident or by sheer luck alone. It is hard to believe that you might actually be qualified, capable, or talented enough to be where you are. You might even feel as if you are not deserving of it.
What Imposter Syndrome Can Look Like
Valerie Young, an Imposter Syndrome expert, explains the following ways that Imposter Syndrome can present itself:
Perfectionists are rarely satisfied with their success or work. They tend to focus on their flaws or mistakes, believing that they could have done better. As you can imagine, this often leads to a great deal of self-pressure and worry in trying to prove they measure up. Perfectionists can also look like “control-freaks” to those around them.
Because these individuals feel incompetent, they will push themselves to work as hard as absolutely possible. This drive is fueled by the fear of being exposed as “less than” and therefore work extra hard to cover up for their insecurities. Superheroes are often considered to be workaholics.
Experts measure their worth and competence based on their abilities and knowledge. Because of this, they are always trying to learn more and are never satisfied with their skill level. Their motivation is to “prove themselves” and feel worthy.
The Natural Genius
These individuals feel they need to be a natural genius. They tend to set seemingly impossible goals for themselves, and then feel crushed when they don’t succeed on their first try. This creates ridiculous expectations to always be the best that can only lead to harsh self-judgment and a feeling of failure.
Not surprisingly, soloists prefer to work alone. They refuse to ask or accept help, fearing others will see it as a sign of weakness. To them, help would expose them as being a phony or incompetent.
Do any of these feel familiar? I know that I can relate to a couple of these myself. Understanding how this presents itself in your life will help you to overcome Imposter Syndrome.
While creating this blog and podcast, I was very clear in my vision. I knew that I wanted to be able to extend a hand in helping others root and rise in their lives. As this little project seed began to root, I could see the blog perfectly and hear the podcast. I created it all without telling more than a couple of people.
Despite knowing exactly what I wanted and working to create just that, I struggled with feeling incompetent and undeserving. I felt like my voice couldn’t possibly make a difference or truly matter to others. Because I am still on my healing journey, who am I to offer guidance when I haven’t got it all completely figured out? Well, guess what? No one does. We do not begin as masters. Generally speaking, we are all just figuring it out as we go along.
Fear Almost Won
This fear nearly prevented me from actually launching my blog and podcast. But, what you resist will persist. The more that I resisted this dream, the more that I witnessed it leaking out in other areas of my life, including actual dreams. My husband told me that I began to wake up almost every single night convinced there was a spider in the room or bed. I was so persuasive that he would turn on all of the lights and tear apart the bed to find this spider that did not actually exist.
To understand the meaning behind these dreams, you need to know the Native American medicine behind spiders. Spiders are believed to have creative medicine. The story of spiders describes the process of weaving the web of your life and the creativity that is required in that.
It took months of encouragement from myself, my support system, and my therapist to believe that I am enough. To believe that I have enough experience, enough knowledge, and enough passion to be successful. I needed to believe within myself that I deserved it. Overcoming my imposter syndrome was a practice, and still is at times. I’m hoping that my story and tips can help you overcome Imposter Syndrome.
Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
The most common advice that I hear when it comes to overcoming imposter syndrome is “Fake it until you make it”. I want to address this first and foremost because I do not agree that this belief is beneficial. If it feels like faking, it’s not helping you. This mindset can further instill the belief that you are not capable of making it on your own. Specifically, it can make you believe that you must fake your knowledge, skills, or experience in order to succeed. You don’t need to fake it, you are already enough.
With that being said, let’s talk about how to overcome imposter syndrome.
Be a Beginner
Everyone starts out as a beginner. Truly, I mean everyone, from your role model, experts, and even you. No one is born a master, no one really knows what they are doing until they are doing it. Sometimes, they are still figuring it out as they do it. We all have to start somewhere. So you must be willing to learn, teach yourself if you must, and continue to practice. Be humble and reach out to people who are already doing what you want to do and ask them for guidance. Accept that you don’t know it all. They may even have advice on how to overcome Imposter Syndrome!
You are human and therefore bound to make some mistakes along the way. Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake. Turn that mistake into a learning experience and not into a shaming experience. We all fall off of that bike at some point. With this in mind, brush yourself off, learn from it, and try again.
Leave the Past in the Past
No matter what has happened in the past, don’t hold yourself back. Throw out who you think you are if it is based on your past self or previous mistakes. Today is different. You are different. We are all continually evolving and you are not that person anymore. Holding onto that shame or guilt will only prevent you from moving into your new present and future. You deserve kindness and forgiveness. Be who you want to be or what you want to be. Do what you want to do.
Sometimes, others can still view you as a past version of yourself. Look out for this because it can be hard to recognize at first. It may seem like someone is telling you that you can’t do or be what you want to. Without understanding where their doubt might be stemming from, you may take it to heart and let it get you down. I recommend practicing mindfulness when experiencing negativity from others.
Trent Shelton talks about an experiment he does with his audience to show how you can be too close to someone to see their value. He has someone sit with their eyes closed as he holds a dollar bill directly in front of their face. When they open their eyes, they usually can’t see what is even in front of them, let alone the value of the bill. He will ask them to close their eyes, take a step back, and open again. Usually, at this point, they can see what is in front of them but are still unable to see what the value is. It isn’t until he takes another step or two back that they can finally see the value.
No matter how much you respect someone else’s opinion, your opinion matters more. Theirs is coming from their perception of you, their experience, and the world around them. They may not be able to see or understand your vision. But, that does not make it impossible or wrong. It just means they weren’t given the same vision that you were, and that’s ok. Keep in mind that those people may not even be your target demographic for your goal. Others will be able to see your vision and appreciate it in the way that you deserve.
Don’t judge your age, resume, capability, education, or lack thereof. These are not requirements of being “enough”. You don’t have to explain yourself or your worth. Rid yourself of the expectation of being perfect. No one is perfect. Be the best person that you can be, that is something to be truly proud of.
Quit comparing yourself to others, especially people who are further down the path you are beginning to walk. Remember that they too started at the beginning at some point. Knowing this, the version of them that you most likely are comparing yourself to is not their beginning. They made mistakes and most likely experienced some failures along the way to get to where they are today, even if you can’t see it.
Acknowledge the parts you have played in your own success. Think about how far you have come. How have others benefited from your journey to this point? What have you done that has been useful to others? It’s important to celebrate yourself and all that you have overcome to reach this point. Reflect back on that time in your life when you wanted exactly what you have now. Truly appreciate this exact place you are in.
Monitor Your Language
The language that you use to speak to yourself can drastically change your mindset. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend or loved one. Give yourself pep talks in the form of positive affirmations. You are worthy of success, you are capable of achieving your goal, you are enough. Tell yourself these things every time you look into a mirror. What are some positive affirmations that apply to your situation?
Change your language from trying something to doing or being exactly that. Own what you are doing and who you are. You are not trying to be a good parent, writer, or fill in the blank. Instead, you are being a good parent. You are a writer or fill in the blank. Even when you are in the seed phase of growth, there is still work being done. You are already doing it, so live in that truth. This small change will empower you and help you overcome imposter syndrome.
Be conscious of how others speak to you
When starting Root and Rise, I had someone reach out to me and say “I see you are trying to do a blog/podcast…”. I believe that their intention was completely innocent. But, a seed of doubt was planted in my brain. The message I received was that this was something I had not yet achieved. That I did not deserve to own it yet.
I can acknowledge that I was in the beginning phases of my project at this time. But, my site was live with content that I had spent almost 6 months creating. I owed it to myself to kindly correct this statement. Specifically, to address that I am already running a blog/podcast, not trying to. If you asked me a year ago, I never would have thought that I would claim to be a writer, to have a blog, or a podcast. That small shift in language with a friend empowered me to take ownership and pride in my work.
Manifest this vision of yourself
Rhonda Byrne said, “What you think about, you bring about”. Manifesting is the belief that your thoughts can shape your reality. By visualizing, living, and being what it is that you most desire, you can bring into your life. I’ll talk more in-depth in future posts/podcasts about manifesting. But, to begin the practice of manifesting, start by visualizing yourself having exactly what you want. What would that feel like? Feel those emotions in yourself as if you already have it. What does it look like? How does this shape the way you would act? The way you speak? Or the decisions that you make? Think about how you would hold yourself in the world having achieved this dream and be that. Be the person that you want to be.
Whether or not you believe that manifesting can attract things into your life, think about the confidence that you can gain through the simple practice of believing that you can have what it is that you desire. By acting as if you are worthy, qualified, and deserving of this goal, you can live in that truth, that confidence. If you are being called to this specific goal, doesn’t that already make it a part of who you are?
How you view yourself shapes how you present yourself to the world. As a basic example, think about when you go shopping for clothes. Maybe you are attracted to a certain outfit or shirt but you feel like it isn’t “you”. The fact that you are attracted to it should tell you that it is you. Don’t label or limit yourself. You are the only reason that this belief exists in your mind. Buy those clothes and rock them. Be curious about what you are attracted to and lean into what sparks joy for you. If you are inspired by something, allow it into your life. You deserve to have what brings you joy.
Make a Move
Walt Disney said it best when he said “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Quit putting it off and pushing it back. Just start it. Explore, figure it out as you go, and don’t stop moving forward. It might be confusing at times. And it will most likely be hard work. But, good things will come from the work that you put in. Even if it’s just a lesson through a failure.
It’s daunting to start something that you don’t feel qualified for. Take small bites to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Start with the first step and focus on that. When starting this project, it was overwhelming to look at the big picture. I wanted to do video, audio, and written articles on a website that I built. There were many things to learn in order to complete these tasks. Breaking it up into smaller pieces made it feel manageable. For example, I needed to focus on the first step, building a website. I researched different hosts, templates, plugins, and slowly created my website. Then, I moved onto the next step and learned how to produce a podcast.
I launched Root and Rise before adding in video. That is next on my list. But, I knew that if I kept pushing the start date out until I felt like I had it all figured out, it would never see the light of day. My vision is not complete but it has at least begun. Just starting and taking one small step at a time gave me the confidence that I needed to keep moving forward.
Focus on Your Motivation
Where does your motivation stem from? Who are you doing it for? Don’t do it for the money, popularity, or to prove yourself. This motivation needs to come from a genuine and passionate place in your heart. If you are expressing yourself and your passion, then you are already succeeding. The trick to feeling fulfilled in what you do is to do it for yourself. If you are performing and chasing outside validation, you will never reach a point where you can truly feel internally validated. This does not come from outside of yourself.
Believe in Yourself
Noam Chomsky said, “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope.” If you believe that you can’t do or be whatever it is that you are trying to, then you won’t. Believe in yourself. Be your number one fan. Give yourself permission to be enough. Don’t let your fear get in the way of achieving everything you desire. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will allow you to grow. It gets you that much closer to being the person that you want to be. This world needs your unique voice and perspective. And you are the only person who can provide that.
You cannot rely solely on external factors, which is why building yourself up is so crucial. However, that does not mean that you need to do this alone. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging. Find people who can believe in you and your vision. Ditch anyone who brings you down or makes you feel like you are not worthy enough, they will not be able to add value to your life.
Lean on this support system a little, especially when times are hard. Be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement from them. I’m sure they are more than happy to offer support. But, they cannot read your mind. You have to tell them how you are feeling. Explain what you are thinking while experiencing imposter syndrome. Allow them to help build you up!
You Deserve to Feel Worthy
I hope that these tips help you feel worthy of what you have earned and where you are in your life because you deserve it. You did not get there by accident. And you are not a fraud or a phony. Changing your mindset, language, and support system can help you believe that you belong exactly where you are. This is a continual practice, not something you will master overnight. Anytime that you start to feel those imposter feelings creeping back into your life, take a step back and practice the tips that resonate best with you.
Tell me how you have been able to overcome imposter syndrome in your life, I would love to hear your story!