Three tips for wrestling imposter syndrome

“There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

That’s a quote from Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook (Meta), author of Lean In, and one of the most widely-recognized female leaders today. Which goes to show that even the most powerful and famous can experience imposter syndrome.

Imposter (or impostor) syndrome is the internal belief that you aren’t as competent as others believe you are. The feeling that you just got lucky to be where you are in your career, that sooner or later you’ll be discovered as a phony. And it can be a vicious cycle, as many of us also experience perfectionism at the same time which means we are setting unrealistic expectations and goals for ourselves and then get upset when we don’t achieve them. And that further contributes to our feelings of imposter syndrome which can also have deleterious side effects like ongoing anxiety.

So what do we do about it? Here are three tips for those moments when you’re experiencing it:

1) Consult your “how I got here” note. Yes, you read that right. Everyone should have a note to themselves that they keep in her/his/their phone which reminds them of why they have the job that they do. It can look something like this (you’ll fill in the brackets based on your own role):

” I am [Vice President] because my CEO believes in me and respects my expertise. All of my career achievements in [brand marketing for multinational companies] have led me to this opportunity and there are many.”

Because, let’s face it, nobody is going to hire someone they don’t believe can do the job. Sometimes we simply forget or ignore all that we accomplished to get here, as if it no longer counts. Guess what? It does.

2) Have your peer mentor posse on speed dial. We can all benefit from having those go-to people who can give us a boost when we’re struggling. It’s important to choose peers because they are on the same level, likely going through similar experiences. When that moment of imposter syndrome hits, give one of them a call. They will talk to you the way you should be talking to your inner self with kindness, grace, and praise. They’ll help remind you of why you are where you are.

3) Visit your #winning folder. This is the place where you keep all of your fan mail those emails sent to you by managers, colleagues, and leadership that thank you for a job well done. I know you’ve received them. Revisiting those emails from time to time can lift your spirits, reignite the pride you take in your work, and remind you of the value you bring to the table. You’re not a fraud you’re a rockstar and other people have taken the time to tell you so. That feeling of joy when receiving praise doesn’t have to be limited to the one moment alone. That’s one of the oft forgotten benefits of email. And don’t forget to pay it forward to others thanking someone in writing creates a positive mindset.

Photo credit: Alexandru Zdrobau on Unsplash

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