How to overcome imposter syndrome
So much of how far we go in the world stems from
our sense of self. Sure, there are influencing
factors out there, but much of our success is driven by our internal
world. And of course, the same can be
said for much of what holds us back.
Most of us have experienced moments of imposter
syndrome first hand. Those times when you feel inadequate. That worried little
voice in your head that asks, “who am I to do ‘X’?”
These little moments aren’t a big problem when we can rationalize them away by
reminding ourselves of our achievements, our experience and our
uniqueness. But if we are struggling
with frequent visits from that worried little voice, then imposter syndrome can
be one of the biggest roadblocks we will ever come up against.
I have a friend who wanted to start a graphic
design business. He was excited about the prospect of launching it, but that
excitement didn’t last long. Challenges appeared as he worked to get his business
off the ground – and with those challenges came self-doubt.
He started to say things to himself like:
I will never be successful!
What did you expect, you don’t have business experience!
There are so many other graphic designers in the marketplace, why would anyone
Has this ever happened to you? Do you ever
question your ability to follow your dreams of starting a business or pursuing
a career? If so then trust me, you are not alone.
Countless people give up on their vision because
of imposter syndrome, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you
too. So read on and take notes – this is
something you can absolutely turn around.
Molded By Society
Imposter syndrome is the product of familial and societal
conditioning, and we have been exposed to it at so many levels. Our schools, our workplaces, the media, and
our parents all have contributed to us adopting an image of ourselves. Based on
this image, we compare ourselves to others as to how we stack up.
We ask ourselves things like:
Who am I to think that I can do this?
What if I am just a fake and others find
Why should anyone trust me?
However you phrase it, it is all the same. If
you are holding on to a disempowering belief about yourself, you are looking in
the wrong place. You are looking outside of yourself for validation (never a
good idea), instead of looking inward to your gifts and experience.
The antidote to the imposter syndrome is to
redirect your attention from those beliefs that do not serve you and place it
on what makes you unique. Turn your view
from outside of yourself, where the world is full of comparison, and focus
internally, where YOU live.
Here are some practical ways to make that shift:
Create a vision
Having a vision is like having a target. It
gives you something to aim for. Finding your vision, if you do not already have
one, is not as difficult as it may seem. You can begin by asking yourself what makes
Here are some questions to get you started:
Think of a time when you were the happiest and
at your best…
was around you?
were you doing?
you were doing this, what talents, knowledge, strengths, or gifts did you
Based on the answers that you come up with, think
of how you could recreate that time and make it your future reality. How could
you incorporate the elements of the four questions into a successful business?
If you can relax and go with your instinct here, you might be
surprised what you come up with.
As important it is to have a vision, what you
focus on is just as important. I cannot tell you how often I meet people who
have a vision, but their focus is on questions like:
- How will I accomplish this?
- What happens if I make a
- What if I do not succeed?
- What do I have to know?
- Where will I get my funding?
Making questions like these your primary focus
will make you vulnerable to imposter syndrome, and you will effectively talk
yourself out of your vision before you even begin.
It is not that questions like these are not important;
they are. They do need to be addressed, but they will not drive you to success. Think of these things as ‘admin’ tasks for
later. Right now we are working at the
visionary level, and everything should be a general overview, without answering
any nagging questions about logistics.
Dare yourself to just dream first!
Ask yourself, “What if I can do it? What do I really want to experience?”
Then imagine yourself doing those things and thriving.
Part of Step 1 was the question:
you were doing the thing that you were doing, what talents, knowledge,
strengths, or gifts did you employ?
Remember, many of us give up on our dreams
because we compare ourselves to those who are already succeeding. From this
limited perspective, we question ourselves as to whether we can compete with
them. When my friend was trying to make
it as a graphic artist, he figured that there was nothing to separate him from
established graphic artists. He had creative talent, but so did they!
What he failed to realize was his unique qualities and experiences that he brought to the creative process. It is the understanding of what you bring to your vision that matters. Identify your unique traits, qualities, skills, and experiences that make you who you are.
These are the things that will differentiate you from everyone else, if you employ them. Additionally, being loyal to your uniqueness is what will sustain you when challenges arise. Remember, you may have a message that is similar to others, but who you are as a messenger is unique.
You versus You
So far, we discussed developing a vision, understanding
why you want to achieve your vision, and taking inventory of what makes you
unique. The final component for making your vision reality is to track your
progress toward its achievement.
Hey, guess what: Many people fall victim to imposter
syndrome at this stage of the process. So this is somewhere to be extra
cautious and remember why you started down this path.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, take an
honest look at where you are today and where you need to be to achieve your
Of course, this does not mean that you don’t
learn from others or pay attention to what is happening in your industry or
field of interest—doing these things are important as they will inform you of
what to look out for. However, to
evaluate how you are progressing without getting caught up in imposter syndrome
requires that you measure yourself against your vision – not against other
So, how do you measure your progress? It’s about noting each step you take, and
making sure you keep taking them. Each day, commit to doing something relevant
to your vision. Take a small step in the
right direction, and then another the next day, and so on. When you utilize this
method, your daily incremental improvements will stack up to big progress.
Your greatest success will come when you become
true to yourself. Do not fall for the trap by trying to mimic what others are
doing. Follow your intuition, have confidence in yourself and trust your
abilities to make your dreams real.
Ultimately, we are the creators of our own
For support overcoming imposter syndrome check out the LifeWriting process to unlock your inner hero and silence the inner critic.