Every now and then, I suffer from the Impostor Syndrome. In case you are wondering what that means, you can check out the first posts on this topic where I shared the definition as well as 10 signs to look out for here. So this is me fulfilling my promise of sharing with you some of the tricks I constantly use to beat the Impostor Syndrome whenever it tries to steal my shine or put fear in me.
1.Get rid of Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs are those negative statements or generalisations we often make about different areas of our lives which are usually untrue. The consequence of holding on to such beliefs is that they often hold us back from going after what we really want or enjoying the fruit of our well-deserved success. Thoughts like: ‘This is going to be the end of your career’; ‘You are going to fail woefully’; ‘Your CV is not good enough and you will never be considered for the position/promotion’, are some of those limiting beliefs that show up in people dealing with the Impostor Syndrome. Learn to use positive affirmations to counter your limiting beliefs. For me, I take solace in my faith but I have read that meditation, yoga or mindfulness helps too.
2. Avoid the certificate trap and trust what you know
It is ok not to know everything ahead of time after all, you are not Wikipedia, Google or an Encyclopaedia. Value your talent and the skills you bring to the table. This may be a good time to rewrite your CV or profile and please avoid downplaying your skills or achievements just because you have no certificate to justify what you know. Trust in the experience or skills you have built on the job, in school and what you know to be true in your chosen field, career or business.
3. Get confidence boosters
They could be your friends, mentors, peers or anyone who is happy to act as your sounding board. They are people you can confide in to help silence those kill-joy thoughts that remind you of how inadequate you are or how likely you are to fail in a project or task at hand. I have a few of those ‘good people’ and they constantly remind me not to let the Impostor Syndrome get the better of me.
4. Practice the art of asking for help
For some high flyers or achievers who happen to be women, asking for help is something we dread because we feel it is almost like we are putting our vulnerability on display for the world to see. We begin to wonder how peers, colleagues, senior managers or clients will perceive us especially when our job comes with being regarded as an ‘expert’ or ‘specialist’ of some sort. Not until recently, my perfectionist/impostor-self often frowns at asking for help when I don’t have answers to some difficult questions or challenges. However, I am learning that asking people for help is a sign of strength not vulnerability. Therefore, instead of seeing challenging situations as a sign of my ineptness, I recognise it as an opportunity for learning, growth and self-discovery.
5. Get a Coach
It took me a while to know the importance of having a Coach. This is probably tied to my inability to ask for help. Also, pouring my heart or dreams out to a paid professional didn’t also look like something that was necessary as I figured out that I can always sort out my mess one way or the other. I have since realised the error in my ways and I genuinely see the value of having a coach (whether for your business, career or life). Please note that a Coach is not a shrink but more of a sounding board for your ideas. I see them as an independent party with the uncanny ability to help you to navigate unfamiliar pathways in your journey towards achieving your set goals.
6. Tune out critics or turn them to motivators
You have two choices when it comes to critics and they are the fight or flight response. Fighting means using negative feedback as a spring board to improve your business, skill or craft. Your second alternative is to zone or tune out criticism until such a time when you can defend your business or creativity from being stifled to death by your critics. Regardless of the option you choose, never take criticism personally or internalise it longer than necessary. Also, learn to accept positive feedback whenever it is given but don’t take it so seriously to the extent that you begin to feel you have arrived. Find a good balance that works for you.
7. Own your success and dreams
Whether you attribute your success to luck or timing, remind yourself that YOU did put yourself in that position by taking advantage and maximizing the opportunity that presented itself to YOU. Learn to continually celebrate any accomplishments no matter how little or insignificant you think it is. The next time you hit another milestone in your career or business think of all the seemingly huge and not so huge actions that made your success a reality and I can bet that it has both your finger and footprint written all over it.
8. Step out of your own shadow
Learn to blow your own horn rather than waiting for your work to speak for itself. Yes, it can be difficult to self-promote yourself especially when you don’t feel convinced that your work or achievement is worth displaying or celebrating in the first place. But go ahead and blow your trumpet anyways. Because if you don’t celebrate YOU, who will? And today is the best time to begin because if not now, when?
9. Acknowledge the feeling but keep showing up
For some of us, the Impostor Syndrome will always show up as long as we keep seeking new challenges and opportunities which may initially look like uncharted territory. But in those moments when they show up, acknowledge it for what it is (your saboteur-self throwing tantrums) then go do what you have to do because you have earned a seat at the table and you deserve the banquet that has been laid in front of you. Acknowledging the Impostor Syndrome as a part of your success journey will help you better validate your past and future successes. It will further encourage you to show up when new opportunities beckon.
10. Give yourself a break
Should all the tricks above fail, please give yourself a break knowing fully well that you share a common human insecurity with some of the most talented women in the world. From Maya Angelou to Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep to Lupita Nyong’o as well as the many other women who left a comment or reached out to me following the initial post struggle with this phenomena. But the beautiful thing is that they keep thriving in spite of it. So I leave you with the words of our very own Wana Udobang a.k.a. Ms. Wanawana, taken with permission from her timeline on Instagram: “A lot of people feel the same way [i.e. like an Impostor] but you gat to just fight the feeling… Fight it all the way”. So keep fighting and keep conquering!