Say Goodbye to Impostor Syndrome!

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You? Yes, you! The amazing trailblazer reading this article. At some point in our lives, an estimated 70% of people, both men and women, experience Impostor Syndrome, the feeling of being discovered as a fraud for not actually deserving our job and/or accomplishments. But *you* were made for more. Read on to focus on why you are fantastically qualified and uniquely talented, tips and tricks for overcoming the fear of failure, and channeling your future successes to focus on being your best YOU!

What the heck is Impostor Syndrome?

You’ve heard the phrase. But, due to fear that you should already know the term’s definition and will be exposed for a supposed lack of intellectual prowess if others learn of your unfamiliarity with it, you’ve never demanded a further explanation of “impostorism.” We are here to cure your angst, as we are here to support you, not judge you.

Impostor Syndrome, or impostorism, is the belief that individuals feel that they are not deserving of their achievements and/or when they attribute their successes to luck or fate rather than skill and/or competence. At its core, Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you are not enough, that you don’t belong, or that at any moment, you will be exposed as “a fraud.” Unfortunately, it is a surprisingly common problem that a wealth of individuals, both men and women, face every day.

Impostorism is particularly prevalent given the many forms it takes, including as a: (1) Perfectionist; (2) Superwoman/man; (3) Natural Genius; (4) Soloist; and (5) Expert. Its breadth is expanded given that it does not discriminate between the genders. Rather, men are at least as likely, if not more likely, as women to suffer from impostorism. Contrary to common gender stereotypes, at their core, women are typically as confident as men. They are shaken, however, when they are criticized, instead of rewarded, for the same self-assured behavior exhibited by men, causing women to doubt their skill sets, work product and contributions. This is especially true for minority women, who, historically, have been unfairly labeled as “aggressive” and “non-conforming” when performing their professional roles, instead of appropriately celebrated for their leadership, heightening their feelings of impostorism.

Kicking Impostorism to the Curb!

Now that you know that individuals who suffer from Impostor Syndrome experience less joy and may hold themselves back from growing in their roles, completing projects, presenting ideas, and achieving success, it is important to dedicate yourself to overcoming Impostor Syndrome. The following is a non-exhaustive list to help you kick impostorism to the curb and remind you that you deserve what you have achieved in your career--and in life.

Do Something About It!

This is a bit of tough love: you cannot lament that you suffer from impostorism, do nothing, and complain that Impostor Syndrome is a force in your life. To feel differently, you must take positive action to change your circumstances. This shift in mindset transforms you from impostorism’s victim to amazing YOU with the power necessary to defeat it and move forward.

This means that in many situations, you must put yourself first, or at least parallel to, others who are important to you. To do that, you must evaluate, identify and understand your needs. This is the difference between settled in full vs paid in full thinking that can propel you moving forward towards a better, more authentic future for you.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmation is important to change your mindset of how you view yourself. Tell yourself (out loud!) that you’ve got this, you’re awesome, you’re working hard towards your goals. Feel silly? Don’t! Affirmations work. Positive mindset works. Dreaming big dreams works. Unfortunately, so does a negative outlook. And self-deprecating untruths. As one noted podcaster said, “Your heart doesn’t know the difference.” Inspirational quotes motivate you because you let them empower you. Focusing on the negative has the same impact, just not the one desired. So, challenge yourself to laser in on your awesomeness.

Find Your Cheerleaders

Predominantly, you are the make-up of the five people with whom you spend the most time. When surrounded by those who exude positivity, you will radiate right along with them. When surrounded by others wallowing in impostorism, however, you will wallow right along with them, never feeling empowered to rise above your present circumstances. It is therefore critical that you evaluate the make-up of your inner-circle and make changes, if necessary. Find others to whom you can relate, whether they are in your career or otherwise.

Ask for Help

A common trait in people with Impostor Syndrome is “excessive independence.” This is unfortunate, as the number of times another will rebuff your request for assistance is overestimated 2-1. Moreover, others want to invest in you. You are not a burden, but someone who is worthy of help. And, you and your helper will share a special closeness after they assist you due to your strengthened relationship. Knowing this, plan to allow others to help by identifying with what you need assistance and asking how others can help you achieve that goal or accomplish such a task.

Make A Plan

Journaling, unplugging, taking self-care breaks, etc. are exercises you can undertake daily to help you focus on what you have achieved and what you want to achieve. Use these times to remind yourself that you are good at what you do. Remind yourself of everything that has gone right, everything that you are planning to do to make tomorrow better.

Celebrate Your Wins Instead of Downplaying Them

To boost your self-esteem and build confidence, write down when things go great. Smile when someone tells you that you are amazing. Celebrate when you achieve something. Recognize your accomplishments.

Be a Cheerleader for Others

Don’t just think about your colleagues’ fabulousness, tell them how much they mean to you. Write your mentors a note card explaining how the time they’ve spent with you has positively impacted your life. Send your friends an affirming reminder about the immense joy they cause you. Empowering others increases your power of positivity while uplifting another who needs it most, often when such need is unspoken.  

The forgoing list is not exhaustive and working towards becoming a person who believes in yourself is not an easy task. It is one that is well worth it, though, as YOU are an amazing individual who has done so many awesome things in your life and will do many more! YOU are fantastic. YOU are a force of nature. Spread Your Sunshine believes in YOU. Challenge yourself to believe and invest in fabulous YOU, too!

And, do YOU have additional tips to fight Impostor Syndrome that will help the SYS community?! We’re sure you do, so please share your advice by emailing or by sending Spread Your Sunshine a message via FacebookInstagramLinkedIn or Twitter. We love hearing from you, as together, we shine our brightest.

The forgoing post is an edited version of "Spreading Your Sunshine and Saying Goodbye to Impostor Syndrome," which was published in the Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL) Fall/Winter 2019 Journal. To read the original version, please go here.

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