Have you ever been in a toxic relationship? You know, that partner you knew you should break up with, the one all your friends told you to ditch, but somehow you kept getting pulled back in? Yep, that’s what imposter syndrome is like and it’s one of the greatest barriers to success. It’s that persistent doubt within ourselves that’s like a monster lurking over your shoulder telling you that you don’t belong, you’re a fraud, and you’re not good enough. Fear takes over and, as a result, you don’t take risks and your talents often go unnoticed.
Women are particularly susceptible to the “imposter monster” and it is one of the most common ways we hold ourselves back. Sitting in my first class in graduate school, I was certain that someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me they made a mistake and I should have received a rejection letter. It haunted me throughout my educational experience, and truth be told, those fears still creep in from time to time.
No one is immune to fear of failure; however, women display higher levels of self-critical behavior than men and frequently attribute our success to others or luck.
I know I’m not alone. In fact, Oscar Award winning actress and Harvard Alum, Natalie Portman has shared her own struggles with imposter syndrome. In her commencement speech at her alma matter, she explained, “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
No one is immune to fear of failure; however, women display higher levels of self-critical behavior than men and frequently attribute our success to others or luck. As a result, we find imposter syndrome invading our thoughts far more often.
So, how can you finally break up with the imposter monster? Here are five tips to keep in mind when your fears creep in:
- Embrace being a novice – some of the best ideas come from people with a new viewpoint, who are not plagued with “conventional wisdom” of a particular field.
- Accept that perfection is a myth and adopt the mantra that progress is better than perfection.
- Create small attainable goals rather than taking on the “super woman” persona. We set ourselves up for failure when we hold ourselves to impossible standards. By creating small attainable goals, our success level will be much higher.
- Stop comparing yourself to others; instead, compare yourself to who you were five years ago and recognize how much you’ve learned and grown. This also allows you to focus on what you are learning, rather than how you are performing. In doing so, we understand mistakes as part of our learning process rather than evidence of failure.
- Show yourself the compassion you show others. We are so willing to grant everyone around us grace, and yet we don’t do the same for ourselves. Be gentle with yourself and be reminded of how you would respond to your best friend. You are also worthy of that care and consideration.
Experiencing self-doubt from time to time is normal. It’s when doubt takes over and starts to control our actions that there is a problem. If you feel the imposter monster lurking around, kick it to the curb. Free yourself from feelings of uncertainty; you are not a fraud. You’ve earned your spot; don’t be afraid to own it.