Overcoming imposter syndrome and
accepting success

February 2023

Most of us have experienced feelings of self-doubt or the sense of being a fraud at some point in our lives. But when your accomplishments are a result of your own knowledge and hard work, and you still feel inadequate, you're most likely suffering from impostor syndrome.

Defined by The California Institute of Technology Counselling Centre as ‘a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.’

In short, imposter syndrome is feeling inadequate or like a fraud in your current professional position, despite the fact that you have a proven track record of earned success. There’s a constant fear that you will be found out and a belief that all of your successes are due to luck.

Impostor syndrome is actually a very common and completely normal phenomenon. Researchers believe that up to 70 per cent of people have experienced it at some point in their lives. Studies have suggested that imposter syndrome can lead to burnout and emotional exhaustion. It’s also linked to stress, fear, anxiety and depression. 

You might suffer from impostor syndrome if:

  • You feel like you "got lucky" even when you worked hard.
  • You find it difficult to accept praise.
  • You feel unworthy of attention or affection.
  • You downplay your accomplishments.
  • You find the fear of failure paralyzing.
  • You're convinced you're not enough.
  • You are a perfectionist and hold yourself to incredibly high standards.
If you feel like imposter syndrome is sneaking up on you, start training yourself to recognise those feelings and stop them in their tracks. See if you can identity what triggers your imposter syndrome. Acknowledging the signs when they arise is the first step in overcoming imposter syndrome.
Many people who suffer from impostor syndrome are high achievers, setting an impossibly high standard for themselves. Striving for perfectionism is often more counterproductive and will only make you feel more like a fraud. When you focus on what has been accomplished so far, and the steps you took to get there, it’s easier to realise just how much you’ve really accomplished.
Impostor syndrome often manifests itself as a voice in our heads, berating us with negative messages like "you're not smart enough" or "you're a fraud." First, try to catch yourself whenever you have a negative thought. Then, turn around and challenge your own claim. For example, if you find yourself thinking, "I just got lucky," challenge that by thinking, "What steps did I take and what work did I put in to get to this point?
Impostor syndrome often manifests itself as a voice inside our heads, beating us down with negative messages like “you’re a fraud” or “I don’t deserve what I have achieved.” If you suffer from negative thoughts, start monitoring your mental voice and reframing it where possible. For example, the next time you make a mistake, try thinking, “That wasn’t my best work, but I’ll do better next time” instead of, “That was awful.” By reframing your inner monologue, the way you talk to yourself in your head, you’re rewiring your train of thought.
One of the best ways to overcome imposter syndrome is to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. You can talk with friends and family or even a good business mentor, coach, colleague or even a therapist. Sharing what you are going through will make you better equipped to deal with your impostor syndrome, and help you realise your true value.
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