When encountering your own success, do you ever have thoughts like it’s because they like me? Or I was just in the right place at the right time? or if I can do it, anyone can? If so, you’re not alone. The term impostor syndrome was coined in the 1980s to describe one’s persistent belief that they are not intelligent, skilled, or competent enough to achieve success – and that soon, they’ll be found out as a fraud. Researchers suggest that at least 70% of us have felt this way at some point or another.
Impostor syndrome has a bad reputation, and rightfully so. It can interfere with our career and personal success, encouraging us to play small. It prevents us from going after things that will be rewarding and fulfilling. There are countless techniques to realistically assess a situation and determine if you’re truly not qualified for the next big step in your life or if you’re just getting in your own way. However, because so many of us struggle with these feelings at some point, I wanted to share a few ways to make your impostor syndrome work for you.
1. Identify worst-case scenarios & make solid plans to do better
Impostor syndrome can be that voice in your head giving you a million reasons why something won’t work – it wants you to stay small and back down from your biggest dreams. Your goal in 2020 is to get in shape? Impostor syndrome might tell you you’re too unmotivated, your plan won’t work, or everyone at the gym will know you don’t belong. The key, though, is to not actually believe these thoughts! Instead use them as a helpful way to identify possible barriers to achieving your goal. So, briefly thank your impostor syndrome for doing some of the legwork for you – then make a plan to overcome those barriers and keep moving toward your goal.
2. You’ll never come off as condescending, pretentious, or conceited
In general, the majority of my clients have at least some tendencies of impostor syndrome. This makes sense – if you feel like you know everything, you’re probably not seeking out a leadership coach! After getting to know them, it becomes pretty easy to call my clients out on their tendencies to hold back and stay small. When we set goals around things like speaking up at work, advocating for themselves, or applying for a promotion, I often hear something like, “but Teague, I don’t want to come off as full of myself”. After some reality-checking, we often laugh at the idea of them actually giving that impression.
Are you worried about coming on too strong or have a tendency toward holding back when you should be speaking up? Know that what feels like a big social gesture to you will likely come across as perfectly normal to everyone else in the room. If you’re struggling to stay confident when speaking in front of others, a licensed professional (like those at BetterHelp) can help you grow comfortable and confident.
3. Motivation to work hard and do better
If you’re realistic with what you can achieve, leaning into feelings of discomfort can be incredible fuel! Feeling like you don’t know enough may translate into you going the extra mile, working harder to understand others and ensuring you have the tools you need in order to be successful. Listen to what your impostor syndrome is telling you, and prove it wrong.
If your thoughts go something like, “You’ll never be good at networking – you better not even try!” then sign up for a networking event and get some prep in beforehand. By doing things that your impostor syndrome says are impossible, you’re building your skillset and proving your negative thoughts wrong.
4. Signals that you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone – and that’s a good thing!
Impostor syndrome can often lay dormant until it’s time for a big transition or intimidating goal. My clients often get to the point of making a change, and then notice unhelpful thoughts creeping in.
What life would be like if you stayed in your comfort zone? If you never felt those nagging thoughts in the back of your head? If you weren’t reminded that you’re doing something scary and audacious and worth getting worked up about? Sure, you might have a few less anxious days! But if you’re seeking out coaching and self-improvement blog posts, that tradeoff likely isn’t worth it for you. The next time you start to hear the voices of self-doubt creep in, remember that you’re taking this leap in order to more fully live out what’s most important to you.
There are ways to make your imposter syndrome work for you! But if it’s getting in the way of your success, you might need some help battling it and moving forward. Schedule a complimentary consult to begin that process!
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