Dr. Julie Olsen
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
I received an email asking me if I was interested in being a keynote speaker in Athens, Greece. My first thought was…OF COURSE! Who wouldn’t want to have a free trip to Athens? Then, almost immediately, I began to doubt that what I could share would be “good enough” to be a keynote speaker, especially at an international conference. I knew everyone at the conference would figure out quickly that I was a fraud. I didn't have anything important to say. That self-doubt almost kept me from saying yes. Luckily, I squashed the self-doubt, got on the plane, and enjoyed a wonderful conference. It was one of my most rewarding experiences and I’m glad I overcame my self-doubt and took the risk.
Have you ever felt like you don’t belong, or that everyone is going to find out that you don’t deserve your achievements? Perhaps you don’t believe you are as good as others might think. If you can relate to those feelings of self-doubt, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome.
You’re not alone - studies suggest 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career.
Overall, imposter syndrome stems from a high sense of self-doubt. Instead of attributing your success to your skills, you might downplay your success and attribute it to luck.
Signs You Might Be Suffering from Imposter Syndrome
● Perfectionism. You may set high goals for yourself. Because your goal is perfection, the smallest mistakes may make you feel like a failure.
● Attribute success to luck. You downplay your success because you do not believe you earned it, you were just lucky.
● Unable to recognize success. Instead of celebrating your accomplishments, you worry that others will see “the truth” about your skills and abilities.
● Fear of failure. Because of a fear of failure, you may set challenging goals and be disappointed when those goals fail. You might also take on limited tasks because you fear failure.
● Difficulty asking for help. You might have difficulty asking for help because you believe asking for help will show that you’re wrong or unqualified.
Experiencing imposter syndrome can limit your confidence and keep you from pursuing new opportunities because you feel that you do not deserve them. I almost lost out on a trip to Greece which ultimately became a great learning experience!
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to give yourself more credit and start overcoming those feelings of self-doubt.
Steps to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Acknowledge imposter feelings. Recognize when you start feeling like an imposter. Instead of engaging with your thoughts of self-doubt, acknowledge that it is a normal response.
Understand the root cause. Why do you think you feel like you don’t belong? Is it due to a fear of failure? Do you believe that you don’t deserve success? Why or why not?
Focus on facts, not feelings. When you start feeling like a fraud, focus on positive facts. For example, maybe you were chosen for a job interview because of your excellent qualifications. Perhaps you do have valuable information to share with your peers or your leadership team.
Ask yourself if your doubts help or hinder you. Does feeling fraudulent help or hinder you? Do you want to be hindered by them? How might they impact your success?
Reframe your thoughts. Instead of telling yourself that you don’t deserve success, reframe your thoughts to give yourself more credit and enjoy the experience.
● Own your accomplishments instead of attributing them to “luck” or “help from others.”
● Be careful not to set impossibly high standards, set smaller goals so you can enjoy the process.
● Remind yourself there will never be the “perfect time.”
● Accept that we all have to start somewhere.
6. Accept that it’s okay to make mistakes. Understand that it’s normal to make mistakes and focus on learning from them. 7. Seek support. Having a safe space to receive support will help you reduce feelings of being an imposter. When you feel imperfect, make a mistake, or receive a compliment, your first instinct may be to hide. Instead, talk with an encouraging mentor, coach, or colleague.
Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you’re not good enough, you don’t belong, or you are undeserving. But it’s important to remind yourself that learning and making mistakes do not make you a fraud - it makes you human.
Instead of doubting yourself, take the above steps to build your self-esteem and self-worth.
"The imposter syndrome doesn't allow any success to go unpunished."
Joyce M. Roche