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Feeling like an Imposter? Here are 7 Ways to Navigate the Feeling.

Updated: Feb 22

Imposter syndrome is an evergreen topic because it's such a common experience. No matter what age or background, you can feel it from time to time. For some, it's more lingering than others, however, I generally believe it comes in waves and is exacerbated by a few things: pressure, being a beginner at something, and not feeling aligned with what you are doing.

Let's start with pressure. Oftentimes, imposter syndrome is a symptom of pressure. Generally, it's internal pressure felt by some external circumstance, e.g., the pressure to perform well, or to be perfect, initiated by a work deadline or promised project.

Pressure plus being new to something, are the two big ones for one of my clients who experiences imposter syndrome. When we looked at what's behind her imposter syndrome, she recognized a lot stemmed from the pressure she put on herself. She can be perfectionistic and the fear of not being able to live up to anticipated and perceived expectations was scary. She also recognized that imposter syndrome comes with a cluster of unworked-through feelings. Because it's usually internal, feelings of doubt or insecurity can grow unchecked if there's no outlet or person to talk to about these feelings.

Not providing room to be a beginner can also contribute to imposter syndrome. Instant gratification is more common nowadays with technology, and all, and we often want the destination and results over the journey or process. However, the journey and process can be gratifying in their own right. Usually, it takes time to stop and appreciate it in order for it to be gratifying. I'm not saying perfect, I'm saying gratifying (even with ups and downs).

Comparing ourselves to others can also contribute to imposter syndrome. We wonder why we can't be like the expert in our field when we just started, and they are 20 years in. It's demoralizing to expect to be like someone who has put a ton of leg work in when we have only started the first few steps. One client of mine experienced just this. After inquiring into what she's ultimately compatible with in terms of a career, she decided to pursue life coaching. She then doubted her herself and her ability when she was comparing herself to other coaches who are well into their career like Brian Burchard. We worked through those feelings and, thankfully, she avoided comparison paralysis (the debilitating effects of comparing).

Imposter syndrome can also be borne of out not feeling aligned with what you are doing. If you are in a field in which you don't fully believe in, then those feelings can come up. It's not that you can't do well and don't belong, you ultimately don't want to do well and belong. There may be layers to the situation, so it may be confusing, however, you can have imposter feelings if you're not being true to you. Alternatively, imposter syndrome can come about with unexpected events or growing success, you're ill prepared for it or your identity needs to play catch up with your newfound success.

If anything of this resonates with you, here are some ways to navigate imposter syndrome:

  • Unpack the pressure or anxiety you're feeling and talk to someone about it if you can.

  • Set parameters and boundaries on your time, effort and, if you can, the people you work with. Oftentimes, a lack of clear boundaries or parameters can contribute to imposter syndrome as we didn't give ourselves enough time, have the energy, or aren't compatible with the people we work with. We can internalize this lack of parameters or compatibility and feel like an imposter.

  • Try to organize and get clear. A lack of clarity can make you feel like an imposter, as well as a lack of organization.

  • Create a Badass List of all the things you were badass at and accomplished throughout your life. Read it each time these imposter feelings come up.

  • Reduce or take a break from social media to limit "compare and despair."

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway. The title of one Susan Jeffer's book, however, no doubt true in the case of imposter syndrome. Keep working at whatever you feel insecure or unsure of and you'll eventually be more confident with it. Essentially, confidence comes from doing. Another way of saying it is, "action cures fear." You generally develop confidence with competence.

  • Start a Success Log. Daily record all the things you accomplished throughout the day, both big and small. It helps combat negativity bias and provides a positive, empowering feedback loop for you do feel more accomplished and confident.

Hopefully, there are one or two tips here you can implement right away or whenever you feel like an imposter. Imposter syndrome, no matter how uncomfortable or clustered, can be worked through with the right support. The trick is to figure out how much of it is the situation at hand and your response to the situation at hand: the internalization of it. Feelings are important and have information to share, knowing how to navigate them constructively also matters.


Ps. If you are feeling like an imposter and would like additional support to work through it, apply here for a Get Acquainted Call to see if I can help.

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