Impostor syndrome is the inability to internalize successes and strengths clearly, focusing instead of feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure. There are many of us who sometimes feel like an impostor, but don’t make it to the clinical definition of impostor syndrome. Those people, the majority of us, are the ones I am addressing. If you are unable to work due to paralyzing self-doubt, find a trained professional.
In the last year, I have noticed more people asking me about self-care and impostor syndrome. These two ideas are linked. It is hard to take care of yourself if you are focused on your faults/ unable to take your strengths to heart. Similarly, it is easier to care for yourself when you feel positive about your work.
Impostor syndrome often manifests itself as avoidance and/ or self-flagellation. Sometimes the project or task is so daunting that you feel unable to take it on or else tell yourself that you can’t. There are many ways to handle impostor syndrome, but in essence, you need to face your fears and then teach yourself better self-care/ self-coaching.
Here are some useful tips:
Imagine everything is an experiment:
Sometimes the stakes seem too high to take the risk. If the stakes were lower, you would do it, you think. Well, then make the stakes lower.
Tell yourself your fears:
Facing fears is freakin’ scary. So, if that step feels hard, just say your fears. Simply considering your fears can help you face them.
Find a friend:
Impostors are people with secrets. One way to stop being an impostor is to expose your secrets. Find a trusted friend to discuss your fears and talk through solutions.
Dissect your successes:
Sometimes impostors feel like successes are accidental. Turn a rational eye at your successes to discover and articulate your particular actions towards that success.
Focus on You:
Don’t look at other people’s successes. You have no idea what they felt or did. Just focus on you.
In addition to these tips, here are a few exercises to help you (printable zine).
A few additional resources:
Four ways to help your students overcome impostor syndrome
Resources on fighting imposter syndrome