High-achieving individuals suffer from “imposter syndrome”, a belief that one does not deserve nor merit his/her accomplishments. The negative effects of this mentality impacts confidence, career progression, and ultimately happiness due to this phenomenon decreasing one’s self-esteem in and out of the workplace.
Thankfully, recent influencers, businesspeople, and celebrities like Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, Don Cheadle, Maya Angelou, Chuck Lorre, and so many more, have spoken about their own experiences and made this issue a mainstream topic today.
Here are a few strategies I actively enact to combat self-doubt and my views on How to Beat Imposter Syndrome.
1. Discount others’ opinions – create a habit of valuing your own opinion over others. As an extremely visionary, ambitious, and rebellious person, I have always pushed back against the opinions, advice, and actions of: my parents, society, employers, colleagues, and anyone and everyone else I have encountered in my life thus far. I don’t care much for structure, obedience, and entitled respect due to age/title/seniority/appearance/wealth.
My knee-jerk strategy to any situation, discussion, or decision is to mainly rely on my own belief, experience, thoughts, and rationale. This strategy has helped me avoid feeling pressured to live up to others’ expectations of me. I live solely to reach my own expectations of myself. If I hit my personal target, and achieve my personal goal, then I feel fulfilled. There is no need nor obligation on my part to please others or fit their expectations of me. Imposter syndrome is self-perceived through external stimuli.
Destroy the value of external pressures and you’ll have won half the battle.
2. Give yourself credit; recognize and appreciate your abilities and accomplishments (no matter how small or big). You’re most likely successful becauseyou worked hard, and listened to your own intuition, trusted your own instincts, and did your thing. Sure, luck or whatever you want to call it, had a slight impact on your life (largely that you’re alive and well in a country like the US that bestows certain freedoms). However, ultimately, you did something somewhere along the way to get to where you are.
If you don’t think you’re successful, trust me, there are those who think you are, because it’s all relative! Don’t be so harsh on yourself and be grateful for who you are.
By consistently investing in self-love, self-belief, and self-prioritization, I have learned to discount herd mentality and become almost impervious to the court of “popular opinion”. Being in the driver’s seat makes me and me alone responsible for reaching my destination, breaking down on the way, or crashing and burning. This accountability empowers me to realize that I am who I am today based on me getting out of bed and doing whatever it is I do.
Thus, unless we’re all living an alternate universe, you created the you you are today, so give yourself a pat on your back for making it one more day in this crazy world!
3. Discover the root cause of your Imposter Syndrome – self-awareness is crucial to identify the trigger thought that unleashes this domino effect of anxiety. Were your parents too strict and always chastised you for extravagance or “big-headed” thinking? Was it your family/friends/culture telling you to behave in a certain way or ingraining certain limiting thoughts repetitively into your head? Were you scolded for being “arrogant” or “confident” or “boastful”? Did you always want to please people and be “nice”?
I’ve realized my personal trigger is: the lack of confidence in truly how much I know due to my young age, and others constantly telling me I need to listen more to others’ “experience”. I’ve been told to “listen to your elders” and “listen and learn from others” from childhood until today. I cringe when people tell me to “listen” because I’m so used to rebelling against it!
Here’s a recent experience I’ve had with imposter syndrome. In addition to being a career coach, I am also a real estate investor. Last month, I encountered an “experienced” local real estate “mogul” who owns “hundreds” of properties. I evaluated one of his properties and realized it was extremely over-priced for what it was. During our negotiations, he forcefully insisted I didn’t understand depreciation rules, and told me I need to “do my homework”. Due to him being a so-called expert and me being such a young investor, I felt unmasked and in a moment of panic, I immediately called my accountant to verify my understanding of real estate tax law. Sure enough, I was correct. He was just trying to force me into agreeing by taking advantage of me in a moment of confusion and self-uncertainty.
Luckily, I have built such a strong habit of “me first” through the years that I automatically always choose to stand my ground. I’d rather be wrong now than be wrong later.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Unfortunately and disturbingly, women and minorities areespecially impacted by this belief of being a “fraud” and undeserving of success. Reasons for why these demographics are even more likely to feel imposter syndrome is due to: affirmative action, diversity initiatives, parenting/upbringing experiences, and cultural pressures/behaviors that exist in modern day society (rape culture, racism, classism, sexism, brainwashing, domestic violence, etc.). It certainly doesn’t help that bullies at work, in business (such as the above example) and in life in general, will consistently take advantage of seemingly nice people by harassing, insulting, and diminishing others’ self-worth.
In summary, defy others’ expectations of you by neglecting to acknowledge them in the first place.
You don’t owe anyone anything. You can’t let societal and external factors influence your internal value. We are all valuable human beings in our way and in our own spheres of influence. Don’t let others take away your self-belief. More importantly, invest in constant learning, and self-improvement.
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