5 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

24 Jan 5 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Do you have imposter syndrome? You may be surprised by the number of successful leaders from the C-Suite to emerging leaders who struggle with this in secret. The feeling that you might be an imposter is the dirty little secret of overachievers. Suddenly all of your past successes are held suspect, doubt begins to creep in, and you start to focus too much energy on what you haven’t done instead of what you have. Acknowledging this pattern is an important first step in the right direction. When leadership is able to bring this thinking out in the open the organization enjoys a huge sense of relief.

I was leading a strategy off-site recently with an executive leadership team. The industry they are in is in transition and it is going through disruption, unprecedented complexity, and ambiguity. We were debriefing a breakout when one of the top executives stopped and said, “Do you ever wonder if you have what it takes? Because I do. I have never seen anything like this and some days I don’t know what to do.” The sense of relief that washed over that room was like a flood. Suddenly another executive piped up,” I thought it was just me.” I was able to lead a rich discussion and they did some of their best work in that offsite because one leader had the guts to tell the truth.

So what can you do to overcome this powerful habit of thought? Here are my 5 ways to overcome imposter syndrome:

  1. Get out of your head
    One of the reasons that Imposter Syndrome is so hard to kick is that we let that voice get too strong and suddenly we feel isolated. One way to restore the right mindset is to invite the perspective of people you know and trust. It could be someone that you work with or even your coach. Share your thinking openly with someone, who can give you a fresh perspective. This can help reduce Imposter Syndrome’s power over you.
  2. Celebrate what you have accomplished
    Overachievers are often running so fast that they don’t take time to stop and celebrate; they just move on to the next challenge. When this happens, it’s easy to over-focus on what you haven’t done instead of what you have done. It’s important to celebrate the wins no matter how small as evidenced by the progress principle. Instead of trying to outrun the fear and doubt, take time to look back on what you have accomplished. If you take time to celebrate your wins it helps to create paths of positive thinking, that become stronger over time and help you gain the confidence you need to face what seems impossible.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others
    Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you feel inadequate and start comparing yourself to others your brain reinforces your story and you may begin to imagine there is proof that you don’t stack up. The truth is there is no one exactly like you and obsessively comparing yourself to someone else is a giant waste of time.
  4. Pay attention to the signal
    Feelings are signals. By ignoring or pushing away the feeling we can actually miss a vital piece of data that our brain is trying to feed us that something needs to change. But if you recognize the signal, you can take action on what it is telling you. Is there a new skill you need to develop? Could you use some help? This may be a good time to take a realistic look at what could go wrong and put some plans in place to make sure it doesn’t.
  5. Take action
    If you are stuck inside your head the best way to get over that is to take action. I personally practice the 5 Second Rule and have recommended this to clients sometimes when they get stuck. As Tony Robbins says, “motion creates emotion.” You will begin to feel differently as you start taking action.


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