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Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Published by Forbes Coaching Council on November 29, 2023 by Martha Jeifetz

There's a saying that “Your inner critic is the voice of your fear with a megaphone.” This phrase is forever burned in my mind, as it helped me discover and leverage three strategies to create a stronger and more confident inner voice to speak so that the megaphone will shout self-confidence, the joy of being “found out” and the drive to actively pursue new opportunities.

As I progressed in my professional journey and embraced motherhood, I was no stranger to imposter syndrome. It is a feeling that many of us can relate to, one that makes us question our competence despite our accomplishments. It can push us to consider that we are “lucky” despite our consistent personal and professional successes, sometimes ignoring the recognition or praise from others for the great results.

Balancing a career and family life can intensify these feelings. The weight of professional expectations and the challenges of parenthood can fuel self-doubt. Whether in the workplace or at home as a parent, I often doubted my abilities. Sometimes, I still do.

Research suggests that imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that can impact individuals at all levels and of all backgrounds. It is characterized by persistent self-doubt despite achievements, often leading to feelings of inadequacy.

Studies indicate that it affects both men and women but is more commonly reported by women, especially those in leadership roles. Women often face unique challenges and expectations coming from societal norms and gender biases making them more susceptible to feelings of self-doubt and not being “enough.”

This underscores the importance of creating environments and resources that empower all leaders to fully embrace their roles, bringing their unique and diverse perspectives and capabilities to the table.

My journey in overcoming imposter syndrome has taught me valuable lessons that I believe can apply to anyone. Whether you’re an executive, a business leader, an entrepreneur, a parent, or a combination, these strategies can help you gain confidence, embrace vulnerability, and overcome self-doubt. They might also be a way to role-model critical behaviors that will help your team, your peers, and your children, to implement some mental shifts that might prevent burnout while focusing on promoting well-being, happiness, and success for all.

Strategy 1: Reframing Through ‘And This Is Also True’

One of the most effective strategies I have employed is the concept of “and this is also true.” It’s a mindset that allows you to acknowledge both your doubts and your achievements at the same time. We all experience moments of hesitancy, even when we have a track record of success.

This approach helped me reframe my thoughts and accept that self-doubt is a part of the journey. The focus is on examining the bigger picture and finding a balance between our insecurities and our accomplishments. Recognizing both can boost confidence and help us overcome imposter syndrome.

This approach, as I have personally experienced, has been a transformative way to reframe my thoughts and enhance my mental fitness. Embracing both our insecurities and our achievements helps us strike a balance, ultimately enhancing our self-confidence. This mental resilience equips us to win over imposter syndrome, viewing self-doubt as a stepping stone and part of the process rather than a stumbling block on our path to success.

Strategy 2: Shifting Your Narrative

Redirecting the way you engage in self-dialogue represents another impactful tactic. Instead of fixating on what you might perceive as your shortcomings, concentrate on your strengths, personal development, and untapped potential. This change in the tone of your inner conversation constructs a more optimistic storyline, bolstering your sense of self-value and recognizing the distance you’ve traveled.

Identify your unique skills and talents. Whether it’s problem-solving, adaptability, or effective communication, these strengths are valuable in various aspects of life. By emphasizing your strengths, being kind to yourself, and using positive affirmations, you can build the confidence to overcome feelings of inadequacy.

Strategy 3: Embracing Progress Over Perfection

Perfectionism is a common trait that often contributes to the development of imposter syndrome. Many of us strive for flawless outcomes in every aspect of our lives, but this pursuit of perfection can be, at times, paralyzing. In my journey, I’ve found that shifting from the quest for perfection to a focus on celebrating progress and continual improvement has been paramount in overpowering imposter syndrome.

The realization that it’s not about achieving flawless results but rather about making incremental progress and consistently improving upon yesterday’s outcomes has been liberating. By embracing the idea that growth and learning come from our imperfections, we can release the suffocating feeling of perfectionism. It’s about recognizing that setbacks and mistakes are not indicators of incompetence but are growth opportunities.

This shift in mindset promotes mental fitness, resilience, and, ultimately, a more profound sense of self-assurance. It encourages us to view our journey as a continuous process of self-improvement and growth.

My journey taught me that imposter syndrome is a more common challenge than we think, even for very successful leaders who are considered the best in their fields. I also learned that it can be mitigated when we are aware and consciously work to manage it.

This requires a lot of discipline to retrain your mental habits to tame that inner voice that can be unbearably loud at times while undermining self-confidence and well-being.

Imposter syndrome may be a common challenge, but with the right mindset, mental fitness exercises, and leveraging some lessons and strategies, you can conquer it and thrive in what you do. These strategies can be used on yourself, your family members, your team members, your peers, and anyone else in your organization.

Self-confidence strengthens leaders—at work and home—and creates an environment that celebrates diverse perspectives, risk-taking mindsets, and all the many contributions that make leaders and teams successful and organizations’ bottom lines grow sustainably.

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