Impostor Syndrome:
Overcoming Self-Doubt

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Impostor syndrome is a concept many grapple with, captured by the saying, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

While self-doubt can touch us all from time to time, irrespective of age or gender, it’s essential to recognize and address it. Often, this fleeting feeling takes the form of the so-called “impostor syndrome.” It’s a common pattern where, despite our accomplishments, we sometimes question our capabilities.

However, it’s crucial to remember that everyone has moments of doubt. It’s entirely natural. But letting that doubt overshadow our genuine skills and experiences doesn’t do justice to our journey. Success is rarely just about luck or connections—it’s built on hard work, persistence, and talent. Embracing and believing in our achievements is key to moving forward confidently.

It’s interesting to note that even those who are often seen as “successful” sometimes grapple with feelings of self-doubt. Feeling this way isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a part of the human experience. Recognizing impostor syndrome is the first step towards understanding it.

So, what causes it, how can we overcome it, and can we potentially channel it to benefit us in our journey?

What are the Effects of Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a specific form of self-doubt. Rather than owning your successes, you attribute your accomplishments to external factors such as luck, or “being in the right place, at the right time”. Although this thought pattern carries wisps of “humbleness”, impostor syndrome is much more malevolent.

In fact, this self-doubt can cause anxiety, depression and especially, low self-confidence. Someone within the grips of impostor syndrome is unable to “internalize and own their successes”. Although accomplished, these individuals will feel like a fraud; causing them to devalue their worth, their own experience, and their expertise.

What are the Triggers?

Forewarned is forearmed. Knowing what could trigger this negative thought pattern can reduce its power. Although impostor syndrome is stealthy, understanding its origin can help prevent it.

Impostor Syndrome Triggers:

  • Promotion or New Challenge: Feeling uncomfortable in a new role can be an indication that you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.

    • Although the end result will be personal growth and development, in the interim, you might attribute your challenges to the false belief that you received the promotion due to external factors.

  • Social Media: A relatively new trigger is social media with its many opportunities for unrealistic comparisons. Many people:

    • Spend an exorbitant amount of time scrolling through the highlight reels of friends, acquaintances, and celebrities.

    • Such comparisons can, unfortunately, trigger negative feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness.

How Can You Beat Impostor Syndrome?

Knowledge is power. By bringing this devious thought pattern out into the open, its ability to instill self-doubt can be diminished. Consider utilizing any of these suggestions:

  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: To assist in this endeavor, it’s wise to limit your time on social media. Create a “scrolling” schedule for yourself. Many apps will set a timer for you and lock the platform once you’ve reached your allotted time. Remember, you are unique and so is your journey; rejoice in your individuality and celebrate your successes.

  • Reframe Your Thoughts: Focus on the positives and ward off negative self-doubt. For instance, if you’re finding your new role at work challenging, acknowledge those feelings. Discussing them openly will allow you to recognize their baselessness. Repeat positive affirmations, such as “I am awesome,” to counteract and reframe these negative thoughts.

  • Keep a “Success” Journal: Writing down and later revisiting your accomplishments will serve as a reminder of your achievements. This practice will provide tangible proof of your qualifications and affirm your deservingness of your triumphs.

  • Visualize Your Success: Imagining your goals being reached ahead of time primes your brain for success, leaving little room for self-doubt. Visualizing specific goals also makes them more attainable by helping you stay focused and productive.

  • Embrace Discomfort: Recognize that feelings of unease are signs of growth. Feeling entirely comfortable often means stagnation. Success comes from persevering through uncertainty.

  • Find a Support System: Discussing feelings of self-doubt with friends and colleagues not only normalizes the experience but also paves the way for positive feedback.

  • View Yourself as a Work-in-Progress: Learn to take mistakes in stride, seeing them as a natural part of the growth process.

How Can You Use Impostor Syndrome to Your Advantage?

Perhaps beating the impostor syndrome is just the beginning. After all, using it to your advantage can be the ultimate victory over self-doubt. So how exactly can this negative thought pattern help you?

  • It can help you to become better at what you do. It can encourage you to dig in and work hard to push through your feelings of self-doubt. “Embrace your inner imposter so that you can waltz toward new challenges that, in the beginning felt beyond your abilities”.
  • The impostor syndrome can signal to you that you are gaining experience. Keep in mind that successful people are particularly susceptible to this negative thought pattern. Achieving new skills can result not only in success, but unfortunately, in fleeting moments of self-doubt as well.
  • Perhaps most importantly, impostor syndrome can help you to keep your ego in check. You will be reluctant to take your successes for granted, and will continue to work hard to grow and develop.

This negative thought pattern, although insidious in its quiet approach, is not unbeatable. Knowing the triggers can help to prevent it, and by utilizing specific methods, you can learn how to beat impostor syndrome. 

Know your own worth and celebrate your successes!

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