I work with high-achieving women of all ages and ethnicities. One common thread is that almost all of them suffer from imposter syndrome. While you’ve probably heard the term, not everyone understands what it is. Imposter syndrome refers to the idea that your success is somehow the result of luck rather than your abilities. For example, maybe you feel like a fraud at work and are afraid of being exposed. Or, perhaps you downplay your expertise even in areas where you are more competent than your peers. In a study by KPMG, 75% of female executives across industries admitted to experiencing imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. In addition, 81% believe they put more pressure on themselves not to fail than men do.
Most high-achieving women experience these doubts at one time or another. But when it happens, do you know how to deal with it? The reality is that imposter syndrome doesn’t just “go away.” It’s a matter of becoming aware of the negative self-talk and then challenging your thinking.
The good news is that over time, you can turn imposter syndrome into your secret weapon at work. Here are a few ways to make friends with that little voice in your head so you can reduce anxiety and thrive in your career.
Acknowledge and accept it
The first step in dealing with imposter syndrome is to accept it as part of who you are. It’s not something high-achieving women can conquer or “get over.” It’s a state of mind that may have to do with how you were raised. For example, maybe you had a parent who was a perfectionist or highly critical. A lack of positive reinforcement in childhood is one reason individuals develop imposter syndrome in adulthood. On the flip side, perhaps you frequently received undeserved praise, which could contribute to thinking of your abilities as a sham.
Be aware of triggers
Dealing with imposter syndrome also involves becoming aware of interactions or events that trigger feelings of self-doubt. Do you experience anxiety mostly in social situations? Or does it rear its ugly head mainly when you take on a new role at work? Start a journal and document the events that set off feelings of inadequacy. Only then will you be able to take notice of your negative thoughts and learn to redirect them in a positive way.
Document your achievements
This is a tactic that I recommend for all high-achieving women, regardless of whether they have imposter syndrome. Celebrate your successes and write them down! Documenting your achievements not only helps you feel good about yourself, but it’s crucial when it comes time to negotiate a promotion or interview for a new job. If you receive an email from a boss or co-worker praising your work, save it! I have what I call an “inspo folder.” It’s an email folder where I keep emails from individuals who have praised my work and the positive impact it has had on their lives. Even coaches need inspiration once in a while!
Shift to a growth mindset
Mindset is everything. A fixed mindset assumes that your abilities are static, while a growth mindset focuses on improvement through experience and practice. A growth mentality sees failure as a learning opportunity, not a setback. Everyone has failures. The key is to learn from them so you can make better decisions.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing yourself to other high-achieving women can leave you feeling anxious and defeated. Instead, commit yourself to a gratitude practice. Take a few moments every day to write down all the things you’re thankful for. Another idea is to create a gratitude jar. Every day, think of at least three things you are grateful for and write them on a slip of paper. Then, when you find yourself feeling like a fraud, read a few notes from the jar to remind yourself of everything you have to be thankful for.
Imposter syndrome is a global phenomenon affecting an estimated 70% of individuals—especially high-achieving women. The sooner you deal with it, the sooner you’ll be able to take control of your career and happiness. Just remember, you ARE good enough!