themighty logo

3 Ways to Talk Back When Imposter Syndrome Calls You Out

Let’s talk imposter syndrome. You may question what imposter syndrome (or imposter phenomenon) even is. Well, let me define it for you. It happens most commonly in individuals in college or graduate school, or someone who is beginning a new phase in life where the work is more challenging. With imposter syndrome, an individual doubts their ability and is constantly consumed with the thought of being exposed as a “fraud.”

This honestly has been something I have struggled with my entire life. Those of us who struggle with it often also experience self-doubt and sense of fraudulence that is overwhelming and consumes any feelings of achievement — even when there is proof of success. No matter how successful in our particular area of expertise, we are unable to acknowledge or celebrate success.

This can cause high levels of anxiety and depression. Constantly feeling like you are not good enough, and the self-doubt that comes with that, can lead us down a dark path where we meet depression. The anxiety of constantly being on edge and on guard is difficult to handle and can even keep us from flourishing in our lives.

So, what can you do if you find yourself feeling this way?

1. Trust your training.

Take time to really understand you are not in the position you are in because you were “lazy.” You did the work, you got the job or the other position and you proved yourself. That’s all that matters. Your perfectionism will tell you that you don’t know enough, but take time to record your accomplishments. Let that be your driving force instead of the perfectionist voice.

2. Be kind.

You wouldn’t be in the position you are in if someone didn’t think you were qualified. That means the way we speak to ourselves has to change from negative internal talk to one that acknowledges accomplishments. You can focus on how much you have accomplished in a day and even record small accomplishments at work or at school.

3. Find someone who you can talk to.

Finding a mentor or talking with a professional can ease some of the anxiety and depression imposter syndrome can cause, they may have even experienced it themselves. They can help guide you and point out accomplishments you may not even be able to see.

I remember starting a job where I felt underqualified and constantly thought, “Oh no, someone is going to figure out they shouldn’t have hired me.” I was certainly not as well-equipped for the job as my perfectionist voice told me I needed to be. I was in a meeting with a good friend and mentor, and as he was speaking, it was like he was reading my mind. “How did he know I thought I was a fraud?” is what I kept asking myself. I felt exposed in that moment. He reassured me I was not a fraud, that I was qualified, capable and equipped. That I wouldn’t be there if I wasn’t. Someone knowing I struggled with these feelings helped me challenge the thoughts of being a fraud. Having a person who believed in me changed the way I worked, viewed my job and how successful I was at accomplishing projects. Without this person, I would have crumpled under the feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and depression that imposter syndrome can cause, and would have quit my job over it.

Many of us will struggle with imposter syndrome at some point in time. Your inner critic will tell you you’re not good enough, you don’t belong in the position you are in and you will fail. Don’t let that be your driving internal talk. Take the time to review all you have accomplished and remind yourself you are worthy to be in the position you are in.

Getty image by Ok Sotnykova