Finally! Somebody noticed my work.
I can’t believe they gave it public recognition!
Yeah… I can’t believe it…
Seems all a little over the top… exaggerated. I don’t think I deserve that much praise.
It was really nothing.
Well, maybe it was something… a little. I must know my business or they wouldn’t have done that.
Ever had a conversation like that in your mind?
As hard as you tried to convince yourself that you deserved that recognition, doubts continued lingering.
You kept feeling like a fraud, an involuntary swindler. Expecting at any moment that someone would realize the mistake they made in praising you and unmask you for the fake you truly are.
You’re not alone. In fact, that feeling often affects high-achieving women.
And it has a name: Impostor Syndrome.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome describes the fear and self-doubt of women (and men, as well) who—despite solid evidence of their competence—are sure that they’re frauds and that they don’t deserve any of their success.
Instead, they attribute their accomplishments to a “lucky break” or good timing, not their own ability and competence. And that makes it very hard for them to identify and applaud their own strengths and achievements.
Perhaps the worst part is that these women prolong the cycle of feeling phony with their own self-sabotaging behaviors. This includes people pleasing, excessive diligence, hiding their competence, and negating any praise they receive.
Lamentably, due to constantly reflecting and dwelling on their mistakes and failures, they often don’t feel any enjoyment for the things they worked so hard to achieve. They keep pushing on to ever new heights in pursuit of reaching that moment when they feel successful. Worse, they may turn the opposite direction and completely limit any exploration of new experiences.
Either way, their fear of being a fraud controls their lives.
Steps Toward Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
If you are a woman that can identify with these feelings and thoughts, what can you do to overcome them?
Consider some helpful steps to conquer impostor syndrome:
Identify your thought patterns
Underlying thoughts—such as “everyone else is smarter than I am”—often come automatically without you ever questioning them. Therefore, becoming aware of and identifying the very thoughts that make you feel like a fraud is the very first step to overcoming impostor syndrome.
Acknowledge your own accomplishments
There’s nothing wrong with you admitting your achievements to yourself. Accept that you had a crucial role in your own success. After all, you willingly accept responsibility for your failures—do the same for your accomplishments. Make a list of the things you do well and the areas that may need improvement. That way you can maintain a balanced view.
Understand your natural abilities
When you have a natural skill, you may think it doesn’t count. After all, you didn’t work hard for it, so it can’t have much value, right? But be aware, humility is not the same as valuing yourself less. Humility is a good quality, if it doesn’t cross the lines into self-deprecation and paralyzing fear.
Don’t demand perfection
No one is perfect. Even the so-called “experts” don’t know everything. It’s crucial that you adopt a more balanced view of your knowledge. Just because you don’t know it all, doesn’t mean you don’t know anything. So, stop focusing on perfection, be satisfied with doing your task well, and ask for help if you need it. There’s no shame in that.
Comparing yourself to others is a trap. You aren’t supposed to live someone else’s life, you’re supposed to live your own. Social media can be an especially deprecating experience. Stay away from toxic environments that only breed envy and low self-esteem. Respect the life you live—just be you!
Share your knowledge
One of the simplest and greatest techniques you can use to overcome impostor syndrome is to share your expert knowledge with others. Teaching a beginner the skills that you already possess can help you see how much knowledge and ability you truly have. And it brings deep satisfaction when you see how your expertise has helped someone else.
Talking to Someone Who Can Help
At this point, you may have noticed how closely related impostor syndrome and issues with low self-esteem seem to be. Yet, there are subtle differences.
What if you’re not sure which one you’re suffering from?
A professional counselor can help. Not only can they explain the differences, but they can also help diagnose which problem you’re facing and equip you with more tools to break the cycle of fearing that you’re a fraud.
In fact, for many women with impostor syndrome, individual therapy brings the greatest benefits.