No matter your type of work and how successful you are, it’s not uncommon to experience some form of impostor syndrome. And most likely if you are, its sneaky little lies are holding you back more than you are even aware of. But what would happen if you were able to fight back against the lie that you are inadequate? To escape what is entangling you to go further with your dreams with confidence?
For all of us, this would mean more inspired, fulfilled women doing impactful work they truly love. And that is darn good for you, me, and the world. The key is understanding what impostor syndrome really is and how we can actually overcome it.
What actually is impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome has its subtleties, but the most common type I find in myself and the other women I work with is an ongoing internal conversation we have with ourselves about our lack of credibility and experience, which feels like inadequacy or phoniness. Have you ever felt any of the following?
- Confused (lack of clarity around a clear direction forward)
- Cluttered (trouble seeing the simplest and easiest solution)
- Stressed (worried about how others will view you)
- Hypocritical (like your friends and family will think you are not authentic)
- Not ready (like A and B need to line up before you can do C)
If you have ever felt any of these things, then you may have told yourself: “Who am I to (blank)?” Or, “Once I am able to (blank), then I will finally be able to (blank).” This “I am not ready yet” mentality is actually the main root of impostor syndrome. And it means that deep down, we believe that we are not good enough as we are right now. So we wait, and we wait. We might not work on our creative ideas at all - or we might subconsciously over-analyze and over-perfect.
But the real problem is that impostor syndrome will keep finding its way into the conversation no matter what level of success we will achieve.
I would be lying to you if I said there was an easy fix to the, “I’m not good enough,” lie. Just like getting in shape, overcoming the lie doesn’t happen overnight. It takes constant work to maintain the right mindset to not fall off the wagon into old self-sabotaging ways of thinking.
The first step to overcoming your feelings of inadequacy is to define those feelings as lies. Once you can recognize your negative self-talk as inaccurate, you will be much more capable of fighting against impostor syndrome when it starts to whisper in your ear and distract you.
When I feel like I am not good enough I ask myself, “Do I hold others to the same standard I am holding myself to right now?”
I had a coaching client who makes meaningful nursery prints that support mothers in need with transportation so they can lift themselves and their young children out of poverty. My client wanted to create a free guide to help potential customers design their nurseries, but felt like, “Who am I to create this guide? I am not a designer… my house doesn’t even look that good… what will my friends and family think of me?!” So I asked her, “Do you care if you see a beautifully designed nursery on Pinterest or a helpful article about nursery design, and the author is not a trained designer?” Her answer was a resounding, “NO.”
In most cases, we as customers tend to care more about how people and products can help us, rather than searching LinkedIn for their credentials. So, practice cutting yourself some slack by holding yourself to the standard you hold others to in your respective field. Then, identify the rest as a big fat lie.
The second trick I use is a little harder, but extremely effective: do the thing you are afraid of. The presence of fear is a great indicator that impostor syndrome has a hold on us. By directly pushing against it, we can strip away its power quickly. It doesn’t require a master plan. It just takes one small action, then another, and another.
As my girl Eleanor Roosevelt says, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face and do the thing you cannot do.”
Taking small actions in a direct attempt to tell fear to kindly step aside is really scary and uncomfortable, but that’s exactly why it works. It shows you that you can move forward where fear is still present, and that you can make progress when you are scared.
Impostor syndrome is something we all deal with, and it’s something we will all continually encounter as we put ourselves out there. But by defining it, recognizing its lies, and taking action steps in a direct attempt to move through fear, we can rise above our feelings of inadequacy. Remember, you are good enough, right this very second. Don’t let anything hold you back from working toward the life, business and impact you wish to have. Take a small but bold step. And take it today.
Photos by Summer Staeb