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Feeling Like An Imposter? Here’s What You Need To Know

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May. 8 2018, Published 8:25 a.m. ET

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If you’re reading this, you’re probably a high achiever. On paper, you have a list of accomplishments that paint a picture of excellence and competence. You’re always looking to increase your value through training, so you can qualify for that raise. And as any high achiever, you’ve probably blamed luck or other factors for your success instead of embracing the fact that you were responsible.

You, my friend, have experienced imposter syndrome.

According to American psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance, imposter syndrome is a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these individuals “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.”

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The first time I felt like an imposter was when I started working as an Associate Product Manager. As an individual without a technical background, I constantly feared being “found out” and having my boss second-guess her decision to hire me. Logically, I knew I shouldn’t feel this way. There were other things I brought to the table, and if my boss wanted a person with a technical background, she wouldn’t have hired me.

If this sounds familiar, here’s the good news: you’re not alone. According to a study in the Journal of Behavioral Science, approximately 70% of the U.S. population has experienced imposter syndrome.

The bad news? Imposter syndrome is hard to get rid of it. Chances are that the further you progress in your career, the more uncomfortable you’ll get acknowledging your role in your success. BUT, there are ways to tackle these feelings of self-doubt head on.

Here are five tips to conquer imposter syndrome:

Every time someone compliments you or sends you a thank you note for something you’ve done, file it away for later. Visual reminders of what people think about you can help lift your spirits and reinforce your role in your success.

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Think of it as a “mega resume,” but with everything you’ve done in your professional and personal life. Volunteering after work? Juggling grad school? Making time to walk with friends for 30 minutes during the workday? Once you’re done writing these things down, take it all in. Still feel like an imposter?

Make friends at work or try talking with a mentor. As you interact with more people, you’ll realize that you do have a lot to offer and might even discover new strengths in the process. These social interactions can also reveal skills you took for granted or attributed to luck.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? On a piece of paper, list everything you’ve ever wanted to do or feel that imposter syndrome has been holding you back from doing. Talk to your friends and family about what you’ve written down. Then, flex those “brave muscles” and take action despite being scared. You don’t want to regret not making any of those choices later on.

Instead of letting your inner critic make you doubt your abilities, think through how you can turn your inner critic into a coach. Identify what’s shaking your confidence and think through steps to address it. Maybe getting more training will help you do something better in your (new) job. Or maybe you need to network to build a sense of rapport with your stakeholders. Practice reframing your self-doubt into something actionable.

With effort, you can overcome feelings of self-doubt and embrace your accomplishments. You got to where you are today not because of luck, but because of what you did!

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