How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

woman standing on seashore holding her head
Alex Radelich / Unsplash

We’ve all been in that situation.

Maybe you’re standing in a room full of people you look up to, thinking you’re the only person in the room who doesn’t deserve to be there. Or you think you don’t deserve the amazing new job offer you just accepted. Maybe it’s socially; you worry that, compared to your friends, you’re not as “cool” “attractive” “fit” or some other meaningless adjective we use for social comparison.

We’ve all been in those situations. We’ve all felt imposter syndrome at some point.

At its core, imposter syndrome occurs in situations where our belief in our knowledge, skills, and abilities or our self-efficacy is lower than what the people around us see. You think you’re an imposter because your abilities don’t match the abilities of the rest of the group. But the truth is, you would’ve never been invited into that group if the others didn’t believe that you deserved to be there.

(Unless you’re actually running a con, in which case, we can’t really help you.)

But if you just feel like you’re faking it—if you just feel like you don’t deserve to be there—then the core of the problem is that your belief in yourself is lower than the belief in the people that are looking at you. But they’re looking positively on you for a reason…a reason you’ve forgotten.

So, one of the best activities to overcome imposter syndrome is one that helps you remember. It’s called the “Reflected Best Self Exercise.” It comes from research by Robert Quinn, Jane Dutton, Gretchen Spreitzer, and Laura Morgan Roberts. In this exercise, you select about a dozen of your friends, peers, colleagues, or whoever is most appropriate for the situation that triggers imposter syndrome. Then ask those people to tell you about a time when you were at your “best self.” It can be written down as a story, recorded as an interview, or in any other method that lets you capture their memory. But make sure to capture it.

Their collected responses allow you to spot patterns around what your true strengths are, but more importantly, they give you a highlight reel to replay for yourself whenever you feel imposter syndrome creeping up in your mind. Just re-read the stories or replay the interviews.

As we wrote before, imposter syndrome occurs when we see ourselves as lower than the people in the room with us. So, the best way to overcome it is to survey the people in the room and have them remind you why you were invited to be there in the first place.

Believe you are as amazing as the people around you already believe you are. That is how to overcome imposter syndrome. TC mark

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