How to beat imposter syndrome

Do you sometimes feel like a fraud in your own life? If you're experiencing success but feel like you don't deserve it, that's classic imposter syndrome. Read on for ways to beat your internal critic.

For decades it's been ingrained in our upbringing that being humble is important. Because no one likes a show-off. While humility is a wonderful quality, shying away from self-promotion can really impact your self-esteem and potentially sabotage your future success.

Imposter syndrome is not a mental illness. It's the anxiety you feel in a situation when you don't feel in control, or worthy of the success you're experiencing. "We all face it at some point in our lives, whether it is in our career, when parenting or in relationships," says Life Strategist and imposter syndrome expert, Sally Thibault. "It's that moment when you think to yourself, 'I actually don’t know what I am doing... am I winging this?'"

There are five types of imposter syndrome, all of which highlight our low self-esteem and self-confidence. But, the good news is you can easily work on it on once you know what you're up against. 

Type 1: The Perfectionist

Nothing is ever good enough for a perfectionist, they're always wanting more. Sally says, "They hold themselves back from everything because they’re waiting for that unachievable kind of perfect." This is a psychological defence mechanism. "Perfectionism really is fear – fear of being found out. A way of keeping everything at arm's length because they feel nothing is ever good enough," she explains.

Type 2: The Superwoman/Superman

Forget the to-do list, these people have more of a manifesto. "We see this type in women quite a lot, because they tend to take on more roles even though they’re probably already drowning in the amount of work they have to do," says Sally. "Superwomen and men have incredible energy, but need to allow life to flow a little bit more easily."

Type 3: The Natural Genius

Incredibly talented, the natural genius has been told all their life that they're good at everything. "They will often hold themselves back from a job because out of the 20 criteria, they’ll miss one and think they’ve got to really work hard to get that," says Sally. Much like the perfectionists, these types are so very afraid that if they make even the smallest mistake, they’ll be exposed for a fraud.

Type 4: The Rugged Individualist

These guys love having control over every situation they're involved in. Sally says, "They never delegate anything and are terrified that if they do, people will think they are a fraud." If this is you, taking baby steps to relinquish control and handing over roles to others will allow you to enjoy the process around you.

Type 5: The Expert

Experts believe that knowledge is power, but they're never knowledgeable enough. "These people are naturally good at something but will keep studying and doing courses," explains Sally, "They actually hate the term 'expert', and will shy away from it, as they believe they’ll never know enough. 

How to beat it

Lysn Psychologist, Breanna Jayne Sada says that these feelings can start to arise when you've reached a level of success you may be subconsciously uncomfortable with. "Self-doubt creeps in, and you find yourself attributing your success to other facts, instead of your hard work." Here are some strategies to kill your inner critic:

  • Stand up to self-critical thoughts: "You need to have an internal discussion and challenge the negative dialogue without yourself," advises Breanna. "Debate the fact that you do deserve this and your achievement is because of hard work and not the result of circumstance.
  • Practise gratitude: "We so often complain about the bad things in life, but we rarely take stock of all the good things that we experience and all the goals we kick," says Breanna. "Embracing positivity renders you unable to acknowledge your success." Taking stock and writing down your achievements is a sensory experience that promotes self-care. "If you write them down and read them out loud to yourself it's a way to reflect on all the great things you've achieved," says Breanna.
  • Build self-esteem: "There's a fine line between self-belief and arrogance, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it," says Breanna. If you're having trouble, engage your support people to help cheer you on. "If you're doubting yourself, tell someone. They’ll be quick to remind of you of how hard you worked and how much you deserve success," suggests Breanna.
  • Ask for help: With any life change comes new challenges. "Sometimes you aren’t going to know what you're doing, but you will figure it out," says Breanna. "Don’t be afraid to ask for help or pretend to know what you're doing when you don't as that can have repercussions." Mistakes are a part of learning and in order to be better, we need to get things wrong every now and again. 
  • Pay it forward: Become a mentor to others who may be in the same situation. "It is a great way of reminding yourself what you're doing and you'll soon discover you know more than you think," says Breanna. Offering words of wisdom is a practical way of reaffirming your expertise and helping others at the same time. A win-win situation, indeed.

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