Three Steps to Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome

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Nine times out of ten our clients tell us they are their own biggest obstacles when it comes to making a career change, and taking the necessary risks to seek out and secure the job of their dreams. One of the obstacles we find they often face, in believing they deserve or are qualified for their dream job, is a phenomenon known as the Impostor Syndrome. To understand how to overcome this syndrome, let’s take a closer look at what it is.



What is the Impostor Syndrome?



The Impostor Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where professionals are unable to internalize their accomplishments. This dates back to 1978—when a pair of psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, discovered this phenomenon, common in high-achieving women. It is an issue that also affects men. A study conducted in the 1980s found that two out of five successful people think they are frauds.



Effects



The Impostor Syndrome has a deep effect on business professionals, causing many to pass on job opportunities, promotions, or other employment opportunities. It causes professional to attribute their success to chance or luck rather than their talents, skills, expertise or experience. As a result, they discount their accomplishments and frequently understate their experience in speaking or writing. This not only prevents them from moving forward in their career because of their confidence, but also because they are not promoting themselves, impacting how others perceive them and their expertise.



What to do: Three Ways to Overcome the Imposter Syndrome


  • Educate yourself. Many highly successful women and men suffer from the Imposter Syndrome at one time or another.

    Action step: Interview others, or talk informally to friends and family members who you admire about their success, what it took to achieve their goals, and, if they ever felt like a fraud, how they managed to overcome it.



  • Adjust your communication. Avoid using expressions like “just” and “only” during conversations with your boss or peers, in a meeting or a performance review, in an interview or during a networking event-this minimizes your experience.

    Action step: Ask friends and family, and a trusted co-worker, to make you aware when they hear you minimize your success.


  • Keep a written list of your career and personal successes. Take it out and look through it when negative thoughts creep in.

    Action tip: Write down all of your successes since childhood, focusing on those career successes that will help you feel more confident at work.


  • Keep in mind as you are implementing these steps, that change in this area does not happen overnight. It can seem overwhelming to tackle this issue all at once so-choose one step per week and take it step by step. Over time as you adjust your thinking, you will notice that not only does your confidence build but your communication will improve and your fulfillment at work will increase. Stay the course, and keep track of how you feel each week for one month to track your improvements.