By Racheal Bola-Keji
Hey, my name is Racheal and I’m often a victim of the impostor syndrome. This is something I am currently working on and I know a lot of women struggle with this notion of self doubt too. According to research by the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of people experience impostor feelings at some point in their lives. This is quite a big percentage! But I strongly believe you and I can overcome these feelings!
Its okay as women to admit that we experience impostor feelings. But what we shouldn’t do is accept defeat and never try to overcome it. And I understand that it can be hard to break out of the chains of self doubt… But we all deserve to live life abundantly and impostor syndrome can often stop us from doing just that.
So if you are tired of second guessing and self sabotaging yourself keep reading for useful tips and observations on overcoming the impostor syndrome.
What is the impostor syndrome?
There are many definitions on what the impostor syndrome is and who it affects. For instance, Medical News Today describes impostor syndrome as “people who doubt their achievements and ability and fear that they may be a fraud.” And psychologist Audrey Ervin believes that the
“impostor syndrome can apply to anyone who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes”.
If like me you are reading the definitions above thinking ‘yep that’s me, tick tick tick.’ Trust me, there is nothing to be ashamed about! We all have moments in life where we are crippled by our own self criticism and sabotage. I know I have definitely had those moments, more times than I can count.
Put a finger down activity
Put a finger down if you’ve:
- Stopped yourself from applying for a job because you didn’t feel you were ‘good’ enough for the role ?
- Ever achieved something but couldn’t be happy or celebrate yourself because you felt it was nothing?
- Ever struggled to speak positively about yourself and your successes?
- Second guessed your abilities because of a feeling of fear, specifically the fear of failure?
- Downplayed your credentials to others because you didn’t feel like it was anything to be proud of ?
- Ever felt like a fraud because someone believed in you enough to hire you or even just include you in an opportunity?
If you answered yes to every or most of the questions, you may have a case of impostor syndrome.
You don’t believe your achievements are worth praising, you constantly doubt everything that you do. And worst of all you hinder yourself from taking bigger opportunities because of the negative view you have of your achievements.
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Why may we feel this way?
Understanding the root of my self doubt has really put me in a better position to overcome my impostor syndrome because it gives me clarity on exactly what I need to overcome. I don’t have all the answers and the points below may not relate to you. But I have noticed three main roots in my life that kind of explain my self doubt. So I thought it could be helpful to share some of my personal observations about the root of my impostor syndrome.
1. Lack of self confidence.
Richard Monckton Milnes breaks down lack of self confidence in the best way, saying :
“It’s not the lack of ability or opportunity that holds you back; it is only a lack of confidence in yourself. “
And I totally agree and relate with this statement. As women we can often be too harsh on ourselves allowing the critic in us to make us feel like we are not good enough. Like the quote above explains, it is not that we have a lack of ability, we just don’t believe in ourselves. And this is where feelings of ‘being a fraud’ usually stems from, because we hold ourselves to impossible standards that gradually knocks down our self confidence.
2. Childhood memories.
Feelings of self doubt and self sabotage can come from past failures or memories from a young age. Childhood memories such as feeling your grades were never good enough for your parents can have a lasting effect in how you perceive your achievements in adulthood. A lot of what we do now can be a reflection of what we did or didn’t have as children e.g support, encouragement, love etc.
For many, the impostor syndrome can be a coping mechanism for feelings of inadequacy from a young age.
This isn’t always the case, but it is a factor worth considering.
3. Constant comparison.
Someone once told me that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and I didn’t understand it until I found myself in the repeated cycle of comparison. “I wish I had as much as…, this person is way better than me … why can’t I be like… ” etc. Utterances like this can easily transfer and escalate into self doubt. Because when we are constantly weighing our successes in alignment with others, it can cause us to doubt our own skills and ability.
Tips On Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
1. Share how you are feeling with close friends and family
One thing that really helps me overcome my waves of self doubt and impostor syndrome is allowing myself to be vulnerable. I know vulnerability is a shaky spot for a lot of people, myself included but there is something healing about speaking about your issues and thoughts. Whenever I get self sabotaging thoughts, I always speak to close family and friends who are so good at reassuring me when I lack self confidence. And sometimes that’s all we need, a community of people who can remind us of how special we are.
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2. Re-frame your thoughts.
Everyone has doubtful moments, that’s undeniable but how these moments are handled is the difference between irregular doubting and constant doubting aka the impostor syndrome. Whenever we have thoughts such as: ‘I am not good enough… I can’t do this…. I am a fraud etc , it’s important to flip the narrative. Instead of nit picking your achievements, ask yourself why not you?
Let’s use the statement ‘ I am not good enough’ as an example. One way we could re-frame this statement is by asking the question ‘what makes me good enough?’. By making this small switch in thought, you’ve instantly put yourself in a position to think of yourself positively. The trick to this tip, is consistency, the more you flip the narrative, the less room you make for the impostor syndrome.
3. Self Affirmation: you are unique and special.
In the first tip, I spoke about family and friends reminding us of how special we are, +
Former first lady Michelle Obama in her book Becoming wrote:
“Am I good enough? Yes I am.”
And in just a few words she reassured herself. This is a good example of self confidence and self affirmation. If you struggle with impostor syndrome, you are probably at a stage where you can affirm yourself but this doesn’t mean you can’t get there.
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To round up, I just want to remind anyone who is currently battling self doubt and impostor syndrome that you can! Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to soar. It may seem hard right now but trust me, you will thank yourself later for it! But if any of these tips have proven helpful to you, let us know in the comments.