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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Build Confidence

Recent studies have found that up to 82% of people struggle with imposter syndrome. This is when people feel that they have not earned their achievements, that they are really just imposters. Without learning strategies to overcome imposter syndrome, it can lead to symptoms like:

  1. Career burnout

  2. Increased anxiety

  3. High levels of depression

  4. Less risk-taking 

  5. Relationship problems

People who do not know how to overcome imposter syndrome are likely to struggle with ongoing fear that they won’t be able to replicate any of their previous successes or that someone will find out that they are an imposter. 

In fact, recent studies indicate that people who are underrepresented within their demographic, like at work, struggle to overcome imposter syndrome at higher rates. 

how to overcome imposter syndrome

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Step 1. Recognizing and disputing imposter thoughts

The most important step in overcoming imposter syndrome is differentiating between fact and fiction. This means you have to address the cognitive distortions or imposter thoughts for what they are and then dispute them with facts. 

For example:

Mark thinks, “I shouldn’t be doing this. I am not qualified.”

But then he catches those cognitive distortions and replaces them with fact: “I am actually very qualified. I have three degrees and fourteen years of experience. I don’t claim to know everything, but I know a lot, and I can share what I know.”

Step 2. Setting achievable goals and acknowledging progress

Some other strategies to overcome imposter syndrome extend to goal setting and progress tracking. 

In order to figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome, you can make a concerted effort to set goals and monitor each time you make progress. 

Too often, people set goals, achieve them, and never take the time to notice that those goals were achieved. This can contribute to symptoms of imposter syndrome. For example:

John struggles with imposter syndrome at work. He has been promoted several times and achieved an enviable position in management. However, each time he gets promoted, he walks away feeling depressed and anxious, thinking that he isn’t nearly as successful or reliable as people think. He keeps waiting for others to realize his shortcomings. 

So now John has a handwritten journal on his desk. He uses one page to write down goals for the week/month/quarter/year.

At the end of each week, he ticks off the goals he has achieved and moves them into his “achieved” spot on the following page. 

He does the same for each month/quarter/and year. 

At the end of each month, John sets aside one afternoon to review this journal and reflect on the goals he has achieved. Doing so regularly allows him to see the real-time progress he has made and all of the things he has achieved. 

Step 3. Seeking and constructively using feedback from colleagues and mentors

Knowing how to overcome imposter syndrome means knowing that others should be involved. People who need strategies to overcome imposter syndrome should seek and use feedback from mentors, colleagues, and other trusted personnel. For example:

Alice is worried that she is not nearly as smart as people think. She feels inadequate all the time, but she is continually asked to volunteer her time within the local community, with friends, at church, and at work teaching classes. 

Alice doesn’t believe she should be the one teaching because there are plenty of people much smarter than she is. 

So, Alice asked one of her old professors to be her mentor. She goes to that professor whenever she is about to teach a volunteer class and asks for feedback on the lessons. Sometimes, she records her lectures or lessons and gets feedback after the fact. 

Alice knows that she can trust what her professor says, and that constructive feedback never derives from a place of jealousy, hatred, or other negative emotion. 

how to overcome imposter syndrome

Step 4. Shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

Ways to overcome imposter syndrome include shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. A growth mindset is exactly what the name suggests: a mindset that focuses on continually growing and embracing challenges and learning opportunities. 

Step 5. Practicing self-kindness

Practicing self-kindness is a way to understand one’s worth. When you know what you are worth, you know how to overcome imposter syndrome in relationships especially. Self-kindness and knowing your worth means taking inventory of the fact that you deserve love, that you deserve recognition for your achievements, and that more people than not struggle with the same symptoms. 

Try to notice when imposter feelings are creeping in and how you respond to those feelings. Don’t push yourself to be perfect, and don’t be afraid of failure. Learn from your failures and set more achievable goals.

Step 6. Building a support network

A support network can be very useful in overcoming imposter syndrome, whether in relationships or at work. With a support network, you can turn to people you trust when you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy. 

In fact, a support network is a great place to share your feelings, especially when your imposter syndrome is so strong that you don’t trust yourself. 

With this, you can share your feelings with others, which gives you the opportunity to compare truth with reality, reduce loneliness, and get a more well-rounded picture of your values and accomplishments. 

Step 7. Cultivating confidence and self-belief

Cultivating confidence and self-belief can help you figure out how to overcome imposter syndrome at work and how to overcome imposter syndrome in relationships. 

Take time to congratulate yourself when you reach small goals. 

Take time to reflect on your achievements. For example, if you get an email or text with positive feedback, save a copy or print it so that you can see it when you are feeling low.

Summing Up

It is important to understand that despite its prevalence around the world, imposter syndrome may not be completely eradicated with these tips, but it can be managed effectively. There may be times when these strategies on how to overcome imposter syndrome are not enough, and your imposter syndrome still impacts personal relationships and work. 

In these cases, don’t be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional. There are several types of therapy and interventions effective for imposter syndrome. Regardless of whether you seek professional help, know that you are not alone and work for continued personal growth and self-acceptance.