How to Beat the Imposter Syndrome

“Tess” pretending to be her boss in the 1988 film Working Girl.

Somedays I wake up worrying that my boss and fellow employees will finally stop tolerating my 50 IQ-point deficiency, my conspicuously absent ideas, and, heck, even my lousy sense of style.

This despite multiple unsolicited raises, expressions of gratitude from colleagues and clients, and the repeated reassurances from my boss that I am mission critical. Oh, and that I look cute.

So what’s my deal?

The Imposter Syndrome, that’s what.

‘American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, coined “Imposter Syndrome” in 1978 and described it as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”’[1]

For my fellow imposters, here are 9 surprising ways to stop hiding under your desk.

  1. Stop trying to fix your fear.
    The most important part of getting over the Imposter Syndrome is NOT trying to get over your Imposter Syndrome. The fact that you feel insecure is not important. What is important is that you get out of bed every day and keep showing up. As Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
  2. Hang out with people you love to hate.
    You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones who are smart, creative, successful and wake up for 5am workouts. Yeah, hang out with those people. By spending time with those who are where you want to be and doing what you want to do, you can more easily imagine new possibilities for yourself.
  3. Compare yourself to others. 
    When you sadistically try to confirm your mediocrity by reciting all of the skills someone else has that you don’t, take inventory. You wouldn’t bother naming all of those skills if you didn’t think they were important. So, instead of enjoying an agro pity party, go ahead and get some (skills).
  4. Focus on your insecurities.
    Insecurities don’t mean that you’re weak, but they may mean that you’re working in an area that doesn’t match your greatest strengths and joys. So instead of shape-shifting your way into a role that may not be a great fit, consider the ways you can do more of what you love in your current job or elsewhere.
  5. Quit trying to be somebody. 
    Instead of worrying if you’re going to move up the ladder or get kicked to the curb, worry about the work. The more time you focus on providing a service, the less time you’ll spend worrying about your image.
  6. Remember you don’t have what it takes. 
    If you think you don’t have all of the answers, you don’t; you’re not supposed to. The adage “two-heads are better than one” is true. By collaborating with someone else you can fill in the gaps in each other’s knowledge to arrive at insights neither one of you could have reached on your own.
  7. Go ahead and hide.
    I have a colleague who once applied for a $32k support role, because she didn’t think she deserved the$63k managerial position for a great program. A year later, the program was run into the ground by a less capable leader. The next time you think about passing up an opportunity you think is too big for you, consider the consequences of what you decide not to do.
  8. Feel that regret.
    It can be hard to look back and see all of the opportunities you passed up, or begrudgingly read the success stories of college alums. But remember that without your (albeit misplaced) sense of inadequacy, you may not have worked as hard to get where you are and become even more qualified than you previously imagined.
  9. Fail gloriously.
    The best antidote to fear of failure is failure. In a best-case scenario, you can fail and others can build on your collateral damage to create something cool.

[1] Feeling Like An Imposter Is Not a Syndrome

Like what you read? Give Amber Ward a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.