Imposter syndrome happens when you don't feel good enough. You're afraid that at any moment you will be found out. You feel unsure of what you're doing, that you don't have any expertise, and that you've just been "faking it" all along. Here are six ways to get over that fear and find confidence in yourself:
1. Write it out. We understand and make sense of our lives when we get outside of our own heads. To do that, try to write out what you're feeling—what annoys or scares you about your situation? You don't need to be eloquent. In fact, you could just keep writing, "I don't know," over and over. The point is to break the circle of negative thoughts in your head.
2. Make a list of good things. Try keeping a list of your ongoing accomplishments throughout the year, and every year. When you're feeling down, use your list to take a ride back in history and remember all you did. What may have seemed like no big deal at the time often becomes impressive with a bit of perspective and time. Find strength in the fact that you're the same person today as you were when you did all those positive things. Then celebrate.
3. Take action. Often we feel stress because we are in avoidance mode. You procrastinate a project, or delay making that important phone call. Leaving things for later only aggravates your feelings of incompetence. Deal with issues head on, and cross items off your to-do list. You'll discover a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will ease the voices in your head saying you're not good enough.
4. Become a mentor. When you help others in their own career paths, you'll realize how familiar your concerns are. Empathy is a powerful healer. Providing strategies to help others overcome their fears will put your own in perspective and will allow you to be more realistic and friendly toward your insecurities. Not to mention that sharing your success with others will reinforce the validity of your accomplishments. No longer will you feel that "luck" got you that promotion, but that you deserved it on your own merit.
5. Find supporters. Not only is it important for you to help others, but you have to realize it's OK for you to ask for help. Surround yourself with people that recognize your brilliance and can remind you when you forget. Often there is no one harder on you than yourself, and you need friends and family to tell you it's OK to be gentle too. Supporters will give you confidence, even when you don't feel like you deserve it.
6. Understand the why. Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among high performers, and even more frustrating, the more you succeed, the worse it becomes. Understand that as your career progresses, it becomes more likely that your internal doubt will flair up. You'll feel there is more to lose, and longer to fall if you fail. As uncomfortable as these feelings are, take a breath, and recognize that what you're experiencing is completely normal, and you're not alone.
No one is waiting for you to fail. You're not a fraud, and your success is well-deserved, not just a lucky outcome. It's okay and natural to feel anxiety, but make sure those feelings don't get in the way of confidence in yourself and celebration of your achievements.
Rebecca Thorman's weekly blog Kontrary offers tips to create the career, bank account, and life you love, and is a popular destination for young professionals. Her goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. She writes from Washington, D.C.