How to Silence the Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever become worried about being labeled a “fraud”? You’re not the only one who feels this way. It’s not uncommon for folks to feel that they’re imposters. In reality, around 70% of people claim to have had imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, with 87 percent of respondents responding to a Twitter poll saying they have. Imposter syndrome affects even successful and well-known persons like Tom Hanks, Howard Schultz, and Natalie Portman.

But, what is imposter syndrome, exactly? And, more importantly, how can you put a stop to it?

The term “impostor syndrome,” established in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., ABPP, and Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., explains characteristics such as an inability to integrate accomplishments and a fear of being discovered as a fraud.

Despite evidence to the contrary, the individual may be plagued with persistent self-doubt and believe they are unqualified for success.

Inadequacies, anxieties of failure, and skepticism that success is a result of luck or timing are all recurrent themes.

Feeling like an impostor can prohibit you from reaching ambitious goals if you don’t address them. Furthermore, persons who are experiencing these sentiments are more likely to over-prepare or postpone, which obstructs productivity and achievement of goals. As if that weren’t enough, imposter syndrome keeps you from taking on new tasks and chances.

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re a fraud? If that’s the case, don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, there are healthy and proactive approaches to overcoming these feelings.

1. Don’t Hide It.

“First and foremost, acknowledge it,” Claudine Robson, the Intentional Coach, says. “By allowing impostor syndrome to continue pecking away at your confidence unchecked, you give it strength.” It can only be extinguished if you acknowledge it and break the stillness as quickly as possible.

“Then you have to separate your emotions from facts,” Robson continues. “One of the most effective things imposter syndrome does is to muddle your ideas of reality.”

Take a step back and look at the situation objectively if you can. “Know when you should — and when you shouldn’t — feel deceitful,” she advises. Recognize and appreciate the effort, intelligence, and foresight that have contributed to your achievement.

You might even be able to take action by identifying that you’re new to a task and that’s why you’re feeling fraudulent. “That gives you a way forward; don’t deny yourself the opportunity to develop.”

2. Implement the STOP Technique

Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., describes a way for overcoming imposter syndrome in her book Cognitive Enlightenment. She calls it the STOP approach.

In Forbes, Fouts says that STOP stands for “suppress the overbearing player.”

“Whether you’re aware of it or not, you need to get rid of this tape that’s playing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” When we’re exhausted, hungry, or defeated, it’s the loudest.”

The following are the steps to using the STOP approach and rewiring your brain:

You’ll need a “launch sentence” to replace the tape of not good enough. “I’m more than excellent enough” is a good example of a strong opening statement.

Put your launch sentence somewhere visible, like your car’s dashboard or your computer. Why is that? The reason for this is that you won’t be able to recall your launch statement as the recording plays.

Fouts recommends repeating “stop” until you remember your launch sentence.

Put your opening sentence into your own words and preach.

Practice your launch sentence as you go about your regular activities, such as driving or exercising, so you can recall it when you need it in the future.

“I’ve been told this is straightforward, and it is,” she adds. When your negative tape starts playing, however, this technique is difficult to use. While your brain is reorganizing, you won’t want to replace the tape every day. “You can’t give up in these circumstances.”

3. Distinguish Humility and Fear.

There’s humility and then there’s fear when it comes to hard work and accomplishments. To put it another way, having a high level of expertise might often lead to undervaluing it. “After spending so much time fine-tuning our talent, isn’t it sort of the objective for our skill to look and feel natural?” Carl Richards wrote in a New York Times piece.

The issue is that we all feel unworthy at times. “When you feel undeserving, any kind response, positive feedback, or reward feels like a ruse, a scam, the luck of the draw,” Seth Godin wrote in a blog post.

It is possible to feel worthy without feeling entitled. And, in order to overcome imposter syndrome, finding the correct balance between them is crucial. Godin says, “Humility and worthiness have nothing to do with defending our area.” “We don’t have to feel that way.”

4. Keep a “Brag Sheet”

Did you make a “brag sheet” while you were submitting college applications? If not, Shawna Newman offers a succinct description: “A brag sheet is comparable to a student CV in that it displays your accomplishments, significant experiences, leadership abilities, and employment during your secondary education.” In a nutshell, “it’s a rapid reference book with all the information and accomplishments for someone who wants to learn more about you.” 

While it may seem strange at first, you may use the same strategy to deal with imposter syndrome. Simply make a list of your achievements, activities, and skills. That is all there is to it. Just keep Godin’s advice in mind, as well as being humble and gracious.

As a bonus, in addition to being an excellent technique to boost my self-esteem, I’ve discovered that it’s also helped me avoid comparing myself to others. 

5. Celebrate Wins, Period

Speaking of accomplishments, they shouldn’t be categorized as “small” or “big.” After all, you feel as if you don’t belong when you have imposter syndrome. So, the more you celebrate your wins, the more confident you’ll become.

Furthermore, accept compliments without qualifying them and practice listening to praise every day. Finally, become kinder to yourself by saying at least one kind thing to yourself daily. And, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

6. Assemble a Legion of Superheroes

You know-how corporations have a board of directors to — in theory — make them stronger, maintain checks and balances, leverage resources, and help advance the organization’s vision? asks inspirational speaker, speaking coach, and creative consultant Tania Katan.

“Why not assemble your own board of directors to leverage resources to help make your career stronger, keep you in check and balanced, and advance your vision?”

“My friend Alison Wade, president of Techwell’s conferences, training, and consulting, refers to her own board of directors as her “front-row” — the people she invites to cheer her on, challenge her, and critique her performance,” Katan writes.

Katan refers to her group as a “legion of superheroes.” What is the explanation for this? “I like the idea of collaborating to achieve well in the corporate universe.”

It’s critical to have a varied set of people fighting for you. They should, in theory, be diverse in all aspects, including cultural background, manner of thinking, and skills.

Katan suggests that you get together on a regular basis, whether it’s once a week or once a quarter. She adds, “Share your experiences, worries, innovative ideas, and aspirations.” “Congratulate each other on your achievements.” You must also encourage and challenge one another. “Understand what you can achieve when you combine your talents.”

7. Visualize Success

Follow the example of a professional athlete by imagining yourself crushing that presentation or project. You’ll enjoy the relief from performance-related stress. And, more importantly, it can help you avoid focusing on the worst-case scenario.

Final Words of Advice

While there’s no single formula to cure imposter syndrome, the tips listed above are a start. After all, your success depends on your ability to fight the negative effects of it. For example, feeling unworthy over time can lead to crippling anxiety and depression if left untreated.

If you’ve tried the above, then make sure that you speak to someone about what you’re experiencing, whether it’s a mentor, peer group, or licensed professional. And, above all else, there’s a place at the table for everyone — no matter what your inner voice is telling you.

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