Have you ever stood on the precipice of success, gazed into the bright expanse of your potential, and thought, “What if they find out I have no idea what I’m doing?” If you just nodded, welcome to the club.
In the early years of my career as I climbed the corporate ladder taking on roles of increasing responsibility, my mind spun a bizarre narrative. I perceived myself as a pretender, a fraud, an imposter, about to be exposed at any moment. After wrapping up an important meeting, instead of basking in my success or critically evaluating my performance, I’d wonder, “How long before they realize I shouldn’t be here?” Imposter syndrome, it seems, is a full-time job on its own.
This self-inflicted narrative significantly impacted my salary negotiations. I refrained from asking for what I deserved — not because the market didn’t warrant it, but because I felt undeserving. Why? Because my imposter syndrome kept me searching for (and finding) evidence that supported my self-deprecating beliefs. Like a detective hooked on a wrong lead, this cycle continued, leading me further down a descending spiral and keeping me trapped in my conviction that I was indeed an imposter.
My journey with imposter syndrome finally came to its low point when, in my late 20s, it affected my health enough that I came close to losing my life. After years of being shackled by these self-imposed limitations, I made the bold decision to pivot. I abandoned a promising career in luxury marketing to pen a middle-grade book series — a field in which I had zero experience. Of course, the ghost of imposter syndrome lingered. There were moments of doubt, moments I felt out of place. But, with each chapter I wrote, with each character I breathed life into, that ghost faded.
But like a good mystery novel, there’s a twist. Through science, psychology, and the experience of my own journey, I’ve unlocked the mystery behind such self-imposed fraudulence. Spoiler alert: It’s all in our heads. And, there are achievable ways to overcome imposter syndrome. It starts by having a chat with that voice in your head.
Here are ways to successfully combat imposter syndrome:
1. Rewire your brain through self-awareness
Imposter syndrome is stealthy. It’s like the shadow that follows you around throughout your day. But becoming aware of its presence is half the battle. You see, our brain forms neural pathways based on repetitive thoughts. The more you think, “I’m a fraud,” the stronger that pathway becomes. Now, imagine if every time you doubted yourself, you consciously changed that thought to, “I’ve got this!”
Over time, you’d create a new neural pathway. It’s like building mental muscles. Trust me, your brain will thank you for the workout.
2. Challenge the little voice with a big question
Here’s a fun exercise: every time you think you’re not good enough, stop and ask, “Why do I believe this? Where’s the evidence?” You might be surprised at the lack of proof you have to back up your belief.
By confronting these internalized misconceptions, you strip them of their power and recognize the expertise you bring to the table. Remember, that doubting voice doesn’t pay rent, so why let it take up space in your mind?
3. Refrain from making comparisons
There’s a reason that the adage “Comparison is the thief of joy” has been around for so long — it’s true. Stop comparing yourself to others. You’ve carved out your own path with its unique challenges and successes. Instead of peering over at your neighbor’s plate, look back on your journey and give yourself a pat on the back. Reflecting on your accomplishments allows you to validate your capabilities.
The human brain is astoundingly adaptable but it occasionally requires guidance. By implementing these strategies, you confidently take back the steering wheel and navigate your journey. And as you embark on this revamped journey, always remember that your potential isn’t defined by the whispers of doubt, but by the roaring evidence of your accomplishments.
Your seat at the table? It’s reserved, and it’s got your place card on it.