Have you ever had that nagging feeling that you weren’t right for a job, inadequate in some way, or just unworthy of praise for a job well done?
I’ve had this feeling when I failed out of Pharmacy School. Despite any of the successes I had up to that point.
It started as a negative feeling that began to take root at the core of who I was. This overwhelming feeling that I was not good enough.
This mentality can make us fearful of being exposed as a fake or impostor, leading to poor social, personal, and professional progress and growth.
I this post I want to explore how to stop impostor syndrome from shaping our self-perspectives.
Finding the impostor
I found that I was trying to overcompensate for this impostor feeling by focusing on productivity and organization.
This is not to say that productivity and organization are not important, yet it was a way to keep me distracted.
Overall, the anxiety and doubt produced by not believing in yourself can keep you performing below our ability and hold us back from growing and advancing in our lives.
There’s good news. The thoughts and actions based on our self-perception and beliefs can be changed.
These feelings that encourage the Impostor Syndrome can be viewed with skepticism and biased against ourselves.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
How to stop impostor syndrome
When we feel the Impostor Syndrome it’s because we’ve become sensitive to criticism from ourselves and from others. We can become discouraged by any feedback that’s not positive or perceived as completely positive.
We could receive neutral feedback and still think it’s negative and a reflection of our inadequacy.
Yet, one of the best professional and personal growth abilities we can develop is learning how to receive constructive feedback. This is how we grow.
When learning how to stop impostor syndrome we have to look at ourselves with an honest view.
It’s hard to grow when we can’t do an honest self-assessment without thinking about constructive feedback from others.
People will give their opinions, whether we ask for them or not. Some unsolicited advice can alter our self-perception if we are in a mental state that allows this.
Yet, when we go out and seek feedback proactively, we perceive it as being more helpful.
This is part of a perception bias. We receive feedback unexpectedly and we think it’s bad but when we ask for it, we think it’s good.
It’s up to us to change our perception and not see the unexpected feedback as negative but for what it is, just feedback.
Having this kind of attitude can help us do an honest self-assessment so we can address the flaws we identify in ourselves and this helps us know how to stop impostor syndrome from influencing our perceptions.
Show your value
Another way to show your value to yourself is to look for opportunities to show your work to others. It can be in meetings, or through work or personal communications, or online.
If you have doubts, start small. Get feedback in low-stakes environments first, working up to more challenging situations a little at a time. If you have doubts about an idea, share it will a small group of trusted people.
Evaluate their feedback and make the appropriate changes before presenting it to a larger group.
If you get the feedback you think isn’t positive or neutral and you feel that doubt growing in your mind, take a moment to think this is more about your perception of an event than the actual event.
Words have an impact on your perception
If we feel like an impostor or have real doubts in our abilities we start using language to describe our abilities to luck rather than skill.
We begin to minimize our value with common phrases such as:
- It was nothing
- No problem
- It’s not a bid deal
- I’m not a (fill in blank). For example, you create a great Excel worksheet and say I’m not
- I’m not a (fill in black) person
For example. You create a great Excel worksheet and it’s no big deal (when you worked hard), I’m not an Excel person anyway (diminishing your ability).
By diminishing your abilities, you’re diminishing yourself in your eyes and in the perceptions of others.
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
— Bertrand Russell
Perspective and attitude
When we start believing in this perspective it’s up to us to change our attitude. We need to not push away compliments or credits to our abilities.
Accepting compliments, graciously, for our abilities is not egotistical or arrogant, even if that little voice in the back of your mind is telling you it doesn’t feel right.
Try not to internalize or invest your self-worth on the opinions of others, regardless if you’re given a compliment or a criticism. It’s important to not judge yourself against what was said or not said or to sit and interpret comments for any deeper meaning that probably doesn’t exist outside our own minds.
The key is to look at our entire body of work or achievements so we can make accurate and long-term evaluations. Looking at individual events can be frustrating because each event can happen under different circumstances and under different perspectives at the time.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
I chose the post image because I think it’s appropriate to describe these thoughts.
Impostor Syndrome can feel like a reflection of yourself. When things are calm it’s almost a perfect reflection and you think it’s true until times get rough.
Then the reflection distorts and the perception of ourselves can distort with it until we realize it’s not real.
The next time you feel Impostor Syndrome stealing into your mind try to focus on choosing your words to reflect a positive attitude and show yourself the value you can create.
In the end, as I learned, when trying to figure out how to stop impostor syndrome from controlling the direction of our actions, the only thing that can hold you back is you.
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