How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome: “Ward off Feeling Like a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing"
Ever feel like you’re faking it till you make it at work, during that internship, mentoring with and leading colleagues, or just in your professional life overall? Let’s we’ll save the sheep studies for that trip of a lifetime to Ireland. Instead, today’s blog will explore how to ward off feeling “like a wolf in sheep’s clothing” as far as the notion of Impostor Syndrome (IS). Although IS isn’t as commonly known in the mainstream as anxiety, depression, OCD, and other maladies, IS can definitely destroy your holistic health and happiness. In sum, let’s examine what Impostor Syndrome (IS) is, identify some common signs, and uncover simple strategies to pull the wool over IS and self-doubt. Animal activists will probably love our farm-friendly idioms!
“What is Impostor Syndrome?”
First of all, we’ll break down what Impostor Syndrome is and discuss some of its typical characteristics. Without getting too Dr. Freud on you, psychological research uncovers how cycles of habitual thinking and negative thought patterns can trap us from feeling positivity or truly accepting praise for our accomplishments. In sum, IS often stems from a type of cognitive bias where we often look for evidence selectively that supports an idea we already have about ourselves, usually one that’s particularly pessimistic or toxic. For example, ever hear that irritating inner voice telling you that you’re a loser, pretty useless, bound to fail? Do you discount all evidence to the contrary (Pemberton, 2018, p. 47)? Katy Perry’s “Roar” is one of those superb songs that helps me to overcome any IS I’m channeling on those off days of self-doubt and despair. What’s your new theme song for empowerment going to be?
Is Imposter Syndrome real, or is it essentially just a buzz word? Tardanico’s (2014) defines it as a viable, real, “well-researched, well-documented phenomenon that occurs when successful and intelligent professionals feel they do not deserve their accomplishments and that they have faked their way to success.” Ever lack self-esteem, confidence, and morale? Show your sensational swag and don’t let IS damper your health, happiness, workplace productivity, and professional relationships.
Now that you know a bit more about IS, let’s infer who’s the most at risk for developing Impostor Syndrome. In terms of personality types, perfectionists are prime targets. Sound familiar? Some of the most famous faces of IS shockingly come from Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, Lady Gaga and Natalie Portman, who all apparently “struggle with the feelings “…that at any time, they are going to be exposed as frauds. And, it seems, celebrities are not alone” (Brady, 2019, p. 21). Let’s forego the Red Carpet and learn some practical ways to overcome IS!
Tips to Ward Off Feeling Like a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing with IS:
· Mantra Makers: Be a mantra maker to get yourself unstuck from the nasty noises in your monkey mind. Research from Meager & McLachlan’s (2018) “13 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome into Submission” suggests how to overcome this habit by starting to seek the obvious, concrete “…truths that cannot be argued with, no matter how much you doubt yourself, and position them as motivational mantras. This mantra should reflect positively on you, while being firmly based in truth” (https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/13-ways-beat-imposter-syndrome-submission/article/1461060). Take a cue from Pink, Bruno Mars, Christina Aguilera, and other self-talk superstars. Start uttering some powerful statements like I’m rocking this job to the best of my ability, my contributions make a big difference to other people, etc.
Word Up: Similar to the above pointer, positive thinking, and affirmative words can make you more mindful and more confident. Research from Carter & Barnett (2014) advises us to reduce "I musts" and "I shoulds" (p. 224) by replacing with “I can,” “I am,” and “I will.” Word Up, ya’ll!
· Be a Gatekeeper: Walls are too rigid—sorry, Pink Floyd! Instead, protect yourself by constructing boundaries to filter what and who we let into our lives to better obtain work/life balance.
· Curb the Comparisons: Stop making your job, school, and career pursuits like you’re in a fierce modeling or talent competition. Sorry, Simon, Tyra, and Heidi! Instead celebrate the fact that you excelled to where you are today, not by luck but through “intelligence, hard work, studying hard” (Gardner, 2016, p. 52). I always remind myself that my professional success is like driving a car: someone will always be ahead of me in the lane and a car will likely trail behind. Ready to hit the highway more mindfully?
· Frozen Fixations: Fixate on Princess Anna and Queen Elsa by learning how to literally “let it go!” Persky (2018) strongly advises us to combat IS by “…separating one's feeling of stupidity from fact, learning to let go of mistakes and focusing on quality, not on quantity, as well as visualizing one's success through focusing on those things that went right” (https://www.ajpe.org/doi/full/10.5688/ajpe6990). Where’s Olaf when we need him?
· Sister (Brother) Act: The merits of socioemotional support cannot be stressed enough in our lives. Have a happy hour with your BFFs, colleagues, neighbors, family members, etc. Take a cue from Whoopi and whoop up your holistic wellness with a little help from your friends to crush IS!
· Write On: Writing is always a powerful tool to get out of your mind and think more logically. It also worked well for Lil Jon’s famous rap, “Outta Your Mind!”
Similarly, studies by Stuart (2018) also list writing, journaling, and reflecting as proactive ways to deal with Imposter Syndrome in an article from the NZ Business + Management. Try keeping an achievement journal for reflecting on any moments of doubt; continue to take risks and challenges without any doubt; let going perfectionism and indulging into self-acceptance (p. 48). Rainbow pen, anyone?
· It’s a Climb: Miley’s hit has major validity here, so gently remind yourself it’s all about the journey and “climb,” not just the salary, job title, and competition. Studies reiterate how it’s vital to remember that you chose a profession that promotes lifelong learning: “We aren’t expected to know every single thing about our career, but we are expected to give our best effort and seek out opportunities for professional development” (Yosai, 2018, p. 26). Try some new training or grab a best-selling book to improve your knowledge of job trends and innovative strategies.
· Be Sensible: Connect consciously with all your senses at work to keep a professional state of awareness and relaxation. Consider using essential oils, playing some relaxing music while you’re working, adding visual aesthetics, and other strategies. You don’t have to be Marie Kondo’s twin or a Feng Shi master to add more holistic health and productivity by decorating with plants, water fountains, and flowers. Whether you’re into tulips, bamboo, bold colors, butterflies, or just adding your family’s pics and favorite sports team’s mascot to amp up the sensory stimulation in your workplace, try to be sensible with those senses!
· Test Best: If you still need proof, we advise you to complete this easy self-quiz at: http://paulineroseclance.com/pdf/IPTestandscoring.pdf
Brady, Lisa (2019, March 28). Do YOU have imposter syndrome? Daily Mail, p. 21.
Carter, L. A., & Barnett, J. E. (2014). Self-Care for Clinicians in Training : A Guide to Psychological Wellness for Graduate Students in Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gardner, M. (2016). Overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Veterinary Team Brief, 4(3), 51–53.
Meager, K., & McLachlan, J. (2018). 13 ways to beat imposter syndrome into submission. Management Today, 1. Retrieved from https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/13-ways-beat-imposter-syndrome-submission/article/1461060
Pemberton, Max. (2018, December 8). How to beat “Impostor Syndrome.” Daily Mail, p. 47.
Persky, A. M. (2018). Intellectual Self-doubt and How to Get Out of It. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 82(2), 86–87. https://www.ajpe.org/doi/full/10.5688/ajpe6990
STUART, J. (2018). 5 Ways to Deal with “Imposter Syndrome.” NZ Business + Management, 32(11), 48.
Tardanico, P. N. S. (2014). Beating the Impostor Syndrome. [Place of publication not identified]: Center for Creative Leadership.
YOSAI, E. (2018). Facing Up to Imposter Syndrome. Communique (0164775X), 47(4), 26.