13 Women Reveal Exactly How They Overcame ‘Imposter Syndrome’ And Gained The Confidence They Craved

“Impostor syndrome is a term coined in the 1970s by psychologists and researchers to informally describe people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” -wikipedia
via twenty20/ashleyartidiello
via twenty20/ashleyartidiello

1. “When I first became a doctor I absolutely felt that I had somehow faked my way to succeeding even thought the process takes so much work and proven knowledge. I was convinced for the first month or so that I actually had no idea what I was doing and that I was going to fail spectacularly somehow. The only and I do mean only way that I got past this psychological barrier was by focusing on the work itself and making each step in the process my sole focus. Pretty soon, by doing that, I was able to quit thinking about anything else.”

—Mary, 42


2. “I had to make myself stop letting my heroes haunt me. I got into social work because I wanted to help people but a lot of my personal heroes were social workers of different kinds in different institutions. Even though I was doing well I would often compare myself to legends in the field and inevitably I’d begin to feel like I was actually nothing and wasn’t doing anything of value for anyone. Banishing these comparisons allowed me to succeed on my own terms.”

—Janice, 26


3. “Imposter Syndrome haunted me all through college and even into my career because there were so many people around me who made everything look so easy. I’d spend hours studying and some other students would seem to barely study at all and get the exact same grade I got. Then the same thing happened when I got my first career job. I’d spend hours prepping a presentation and it would seem like some of my co-workers would just wing it and do just as well as I had. I finally had to just quit caring what others were doing and just focus on how I worked because it was becoming a huge emotional drain. Thankfully this worked and I’ve continued to do well. Some of these others who were winging it have not. It goes to show that there’s a limit to natural ability without work ethic and I have a punishing work ethic.”

—Natasha, 29


4. “Self talk. If I’m going through a phase where I have this feeling that I’m faking it then I remind myself every morning and every evening that I worked hard for this and I recommit to continuing to work hard.”

—Sadie, 23


5. “I grew up very poor but my parents made sure I did well in school. I was able to get into an Ivy League school because of the work I put in while in high school but once I was actually at college I felt that I didn’t belong and that I hadn’t earned the opportunity to be where I was. My life experiences were drastically different from most of the others I was enrolled with and they all seemed far more comfortable than I was. On top of that, the pressure to do well was overwhelming. It wasn’t until after my first semester when I saw that my grades were as good as anyone else’s and better than most that I feel proud of working hard and stop thinking that all my achievements were simply luck.

So, keep working hard. That’s all you can do. The results will flow out of that and nothing else.”

—Ellie, 24


6. “Finding out that a lot of my friends also felt like they were frauds whenever they succeeded was the turning point for me on this. Once I realized that hey, we all kind of feel like frauds sometimes, I was able to more easily dismiss these feelings as just something everyone deals with. Everyone’s out there trying to put on the best face and a lot of them feel absolutely out of control.”

—Charlotte, 20


7. “For me I had to find the root cause of why I felt that I was a fraud. That involved looking around at the learned behaviors I’d absorbed growing up. The main turned out to be from my mother. She’s a wonderful person but she was always happier being in a support role and every time I would succeed in school she would tell me not to be ‘too proud’. That can be good advice but the effect it had on me personally was that every time she said it I interpreted that as ‘you having done anything to be proud of’. I had to work hard to banish that voice from my daily life for years. Let go of the things you’ve been taught that are holding you back.”

—Evelyn, 31


8. “I still struggle with this but I can tell you the one way that this feeling wins is if you become fatalistic about it. You can’t let up on the pressure to succeed. When I have done that in the past, set the bar a little lower because of feelings of failure then you really do fail. Believe me there’s a big difference between actually failing and feeling like you’re a fraud while succeeding. I would absolutely rather set the bar high and succeed while feeling like a bit of a fraud than to set the bar low and verify that feeling of being a faker.”

—Meredith, 27


9. “Focus on completing tasks instead of identifying yourself as a ‘successful person.’ If your work is your identity then this will be hard so don’t make work your identity. Make being a person who completes their work well and works hard your identity. Don’t get caught up in meeting vague expectations beyond that. I’m many things, a mother, a daughter, a hiker, a volunteer but I’m not just a woman with a career and my career isn’t the beginning and end of me. Anyone who says otherwise is setting limits on themselves to shore up their ego.”

—Sara, 32


10. “You have to stop expecting or needing to be affirmed for doing your job well. I went from a very supportive college environment to a job environment that was cutthroat and unsupportive. If you expect to be told you’re doing well, as I did, then you’ll end up needing that affirmation to help you feel you’re not actually a total failure. But when you’re able to realize that you’ll never get that day-to-day pat on the back from your boss then you can start letting your work speak for you. While I expect my boyfriend and family to support me emotionally in my personal life, career is another matter entirely. There are no special snowflakes in the workplace so you have to stop needing to be one.”

—Kaitlyn, 26


11. “I have a tendency to get a big head about my own success so that when I’m not succeeding incredibly I start to feel like a faker. I’ve found the only way to avoid these highs and lows are to never allow myself to rest on my laurels in the first place. If you do well, accept praise if there is any, feel proud, but move on and let go of the idea that you’re so great.”

—Leah, 24


12. “I keep a folder of complimentary emails from my boss and co-workers. This way, when I’m feeling that bs feeling of ‘oh, I’m terrible and everyone thinks so’ I can look at what people actually think of me instead of imagining my worst fears.”

—Lucy, 26


13. “Let go of the Sheryl Sandberg fantasy expectations. Putting things on pedestals and always trying to live up to the ideal is the bane of ever feeling good about any accomplishment you’ve ever had or will ever have. Set your own goals, not someone else’s.”

—Marla, 30 TC mark


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