Tussling with Imposter Syndrome
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
For the high achieving individual within or outside the realm of education, who thinks they are undeserving of their accolades, may you always be reminded that imposter syndrome is the thief of joy and progress. You’re doing amazing sweetie!
"Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they're deserving of accolades."
This is not a matter of not having what it takes. Rather, doing the work, receiving the benefits of that work, and feeling that you should not indulge in the feeling of joy because it should not be yours. Or even that it might be taken away from you! With age, I have come to realize that imposter syndrome is very common. We know that this is not our reality, and the unkind thoughts in our minds and sometimes even the thoughts and words of others are not valid. But how do we continuously work towards dismantling and dismissing these negative thoughts and words? How do we choose joy and acknowledge/celebrate the amazing work we have done?
I have listed below 5 best practices that can be used to fight the on-going battle with imposter syndrome:
Failures are not defining moments.
In life we will succeed at many things, but we will also have failures. Grappling with our short-comings is difficult, but necessary. It is very important that we are acknowledging areas of growth while being solutions-oriented. This means not harping on what went wrong or feeling sorry for ourselves, but objectively looking at our work and events - making note of things to be improved moving forward. We get the biggest bang for our buck here because we'll walk away with action steps versus just feeling sad, defeated, and stagnant.
Highlight glows and grows.
If you work in education, you've most likely heard this term before. If not, highlighting glows and grows is an approach to giving adult and student-facing feedback. It is very effective because you are highlighting successes prior to addressing what needs to be changed. When thinking about our personal and professional lives, we should highlight where we have triumphed before we address what needs to be fixed. This trains our minds to always search for the good in situations.
When listing or discussing grows, it is best to focus on 1-2 immediate action steps so we are not overwhelming ourselves with all of the things that we believe are wrong. This also saves us from invalidating the positive.
All feedback matters.
All feedback is valuable. This is true regardless of how it is delivered. I say this because there is something to learn from every experience that we have with anyone in our personal and professional lives. Brené Brown says it best in her book Dare to Lead:
"When receiving feedback, we can identify a value-supporting behavior and or a piece of self-talk to help in that moment. Here's mine: When I'm receiving feedback, and I want to stay aligned with my value of courage, I say to myself, 'I'm brave enough to listen." I actually put it on repeat: 'I'm brave enough to listen. I don't have to take it all in or add it to my load, but I'm brave enough to listen.'"
So take what's helpful, leave what isn't, and ask for clarity if you are in the frame of mind to do so (or circle back to the conversation if not).
Speak affirmations over yourself, your work, and your life.
Positive self-talk is KEY. Hype yourself up and say all of the reasons you are good and deserving. Name what will be yours in due time. Some prefer to list these statements, others prefer to purchase and review affirmation cards. Do what works for you.
Keep Squares out of your circle.
Squares are negative people who do not bring us joy or contribute to our growth. Seek out genuine, affirming, and positive friendships and people. Lean into love and support. I mean this both personally and professionally. In addition to the company we keep, we should also seek professional help. Healthy friendships in conjunction with therapy helps us to get out of our own heads, unpack our thoughts, and also serve as constant reminders that we are deserving of all the good in our lives. More than that, we develop different strategies to combat imposter syndrome when it creeps into our minds.
Dismantling imposter syndrome is an ongoing effort that will improve with time and consistent work. In addition to the points above, I have also included some resources that I have found to be helpful. As always, thank you for reading!