Overcoming imposter syndrome

Mar 5, 2024

Whether you call it imposter syndrome or “feeling like a fraud,” it is defined as “anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.” Imposter syndrome can affect all areas of our life including professional career, and it can be a common threat that holds you back from achieving your goals and potentials, especially if you aren’t aware of it or aren’t doing anything to address it.

There are many factors contributing to imposter syndrome, and based on my interactions with clients, I’ve noticed two common causes rooted in their early childhood experience: having been overly criticized or overly praised.

For those who grew up in a highly critical environment and are made believe that they aren’t good enough, they uphold a sense of deficiency in everything they face.  For those who were praised too often in their younger days, they are constantly under pressure to perform their best for the recognition of others, which could become a self-imposed hurdle in everything they do.

Symptoms of imposter syndrome include self-doubt, lack of confidence, anxiety, feelings of deficiency or inadequacy, fear of failure, discounting own achievements, constant comparison to others, difficulty of accepting praises, and self-sabotage.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Having imposter syndrome isn’t all bad all the time. A healthy and well-balanced imposter syndrome could motivate a person to stretch, grow, learn, and explore options which didn’t exit previously without such pressure. If you; however, feel your imposter syndrome has prevented you from taking action and moving forward, below are some strategies for your consideration.

Acknowledge it, say no to it

Acknowledging feeling like a fraud is the first step to combat imposter syndrome. Once you recognize and validate such feelings, you must remind yourself that you don’t want this limiting belief to stop you from pursuing and achieving your goals.

Separate emotions from facts

Emotions are real, but don’t allow them to take over you! Analyze your circumstances with objective data and information to help you separate emotions from facts. So next time when you hear yourself saying “I can’t” or “I don’t know what I am doing,” take a pause to separate emotions from facts, then do a fair and objective assessment of your ability to accomplish your goals.

Recognize and celebrate your own achievements

Recognizing and making a list of your achievements not only demonstrates the milestones you’ve made, but also helps keep track of your skills, abilities, knowledge, devotion, and efforts. It will come handy especially when doubts set in and when you need facts to combat your emotions.

Big or small, celebrating your accomplishments is a great way to recognize and reward your progress. At the same time, it will always energize you forward.

Recognize your own strengths and limits

Recognizing and leveraging your strengths will boost your self-confidence, while knowing your limits will reduce the feeling of inadequacy, shame, and inferiority. After all, no one knows it all! Realizing your limits also offers you a great opportunity to learn, ask for help, and ultimately become a better you.

Reframe your mistakes

Do you see mistakes as failure or as a step closer to your success? Shift your focus, look at what you’ve learned from the mistakes and how you can grow and do better in the future. Sometimes, you could be just one more mistake away from your success!

Challenge your negative thoughts

Keep an eye out for that loud negative voice in your head. When that voice comes, take a mental pause, question, challenge, and assess it if it is true. Counter your negative thoughts with facts, truth, and proven achievements, and get yourself out of the lies and move on.

Set realistic and clear expectations

Starting with the end goals in mind will help you stay focused, while having realistic and clear expectations allows you to track your milestones and progresses. The ownership over your achievements not only boosts your self-confidence, but also motivates you forward, which eventually helps diminish your imposter syndrome.

Mindful activities

Mindful activities, like journaling, doodling, or meditation, will help you come back to the present moment and reduce anxiety or fear from feeling like a fraud. Read more about Mindfulness here.

Stop comparing yourself to others

When you compare yourself to others, I bet the result is always how much worse and inadequate you are and how flawless or better others are. It may be natural for you to fix your focus on what you lack instead of appreciating the accumulated skills and experiences you’ve already possessed. If you can’t help it but to compare, compare to your old self. That was one of the early advice I received from my mom till this day.

Continue learning

If you know for sure that lacking certain skills, knowledge, or experience are the true cause of your imposter syndrome, embrace a growth mindset, learn, and ask for help from others.

Grace upon yourself

Give yourself time and grace as you tackle this big obstacle in the process. As you move forward, I guarantee you that you will slip up.  Don’t let the sense of failure get into your head, acknowledge and accept the setback, make the needed change, and remember to pick yourself back up and get back on track again, and again.

Seek support and help

You are not alone! According to a 2021 survey, 96% of people said they have experienced imposter syndrome. Reach out and share your feelings with those who you can trust and those who don’t judge you. You may be surprised that they would share some of their own imposter syndrome moments and give you their encouragement and perspectives. Of course, connect with me, and let’s turn this current imposter syndrome into a well-balanced and positive force in life for your future.

While you penalize yourself for not being good enough, remember, no one is perfect even if he/she looks like it. Imposter syndrome is widely prevalent, and many have experienced or are suffering from it. The focus of this blogpost isn’t about getting rid of it completely; rather, its intent is to provide you tools to practice and escape from self-doubt and self-sabotage. My sincere hope is that one day as you reflect on life, you will have a big and victorious smile while looking in a mirror, because today you decided to acknowledge and tackle this daunting and exhausting belief, and you’ve become a more confident and successful person in whatever the endeavor you are in then.


Photo by Joeyy Lee on Unsplash

About Faye Weng

Your Online Life and Career Coach

Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.