Every time I have been called to step into a new leadership role, I have experienced what many people refer to as Impostor Syndrome. According to Psychology Today:
“Impostor Syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with Impostor Syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”
There is a difference between humility and full out Impostor Syndrome. The way you talk to yourself can build you up or tear you down. When your inner dialogue is harsh, it’s usually because you’re repeating things you heard from your parents or other authority figures when you were growing up.
If the criticism goes too far, it can discourage you from trying and take the joy out of your life. If you are struggling with Impostor Syndrome, you must learn to break free from the voices in your head.
There are 5 types of Impostor Syndrome, according to Dr. Valerie Young:
1. The Perfectionist
For this type, success is seldom satisfying because they believe they could’ve done even better. But that’s neither productive nor healthy. Truth is, there will never be the “perfect time” and your work will never be 100% flawless. The sooner you’re able to accept that, the better off you’ll be.
2. The Superwoman
They are convinced they don't measure up to whom they consider as "real-deal" colleagues, and so they work harder and harder, harming not only their own mental health but also their relationships.
Impostor workaholics are addicted to the validation that comes from working, not to the work itself. As you become more attuned to internal validation and able to nurture your inner confidence, you’ll be able to ease off the gas as you gauge how much work is reasonable.
3. The Natural Genius
Young says people with this competence type believe they need to be a natural “genius.” They judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try and quickly. Rather than beating yourself up when you don’t reach your impossibly high standards, identify specific, changeable behaviors that you can improve over time.
4. The Soloist
They feel asking for help reveals their shortcomings. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse help so that you can prove your worth.
5. The Expert
Experts measure their competence based on “what” and “how much” they know or can do. Believing they will never know enough, they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.
When you take your need to be an expert too far, the tendency to endlessly seek out more information can turn into procrastination. Start practicing just-in-time learning: acquiring a skill when you need it –rather than hoarding knowledge for false comfort.
As Alpha Women, we often feel ashamed about asking for help when we need it. If you don’t know how to do something, ask a co-worker. If you can’t figure out how to solve a problem, seek advice from a mentor. On the other hand, mentoring junior colleagues or volunteering can be a great way to discover your inner expert. By sharing your knowledge you're helping other people and forget about impostor feelings.
Here are 6 techniques to help you overcome the Impostor Syndrome once and for all:
1. Make Friends with Your Inner Critic.
Your inner critic will sound less scary if you remember that it wants to protect you from failure and other possible dangers. Learn how to put it to work for you instead of against you.
2. Increase your self-awareness.
You may be so used to your inner critic that you hardly think about what it’s saying. Start changing your relationship by trying to understand what it wants to tell you.
3. Dig deep by looking back.
What’s your first memory of your inner critic? Does it sound like a particular person from your past? There may be family issues or other matters that you need to heal before you can move on. Rewrite the negative scripts others have caused you to believe about yourself.
4. Focus on growth.
Maybe your inner voice says you’re bad at math because you failed a test in the third grade. In reality, you’re not stuck in your past. Adopt a growth mindset that enables you to become whatever you want as long as you’re willing to put in the work to get there.
5. Aim higher.
You may also find your inner critic easier to deal with if you keep a deeper purpose in mind. When you’re working for something bigger than yourself, you can accept your self-doubts without being overcome by them.
6. Try meditation.
Many women find that meditation helps them to make their self-talk more comforting and motivating. Let go of judgments and connect with your inner goodness. I love meditating in a hot bath.
A lot of times, we are critical of others and lack empathy because we are our own worst critic. If we could just learn to love and accept ourselves for who and how we are, we might be able to honor the strengths of others and overlook their weaknesses. Failure to do so can have dire consequences on our ability to build and sustain authentic long term relationships.
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