Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ways to Overcome ‘Impostor Syndrome’

At some point in their professional lives, everyone, no matter how successful, feels like they’re a fraud. Even luminaries like Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Neil Gaiman, Sheryl Sandberg and Sonia Sotomayor have written or spoken about the feeling of impending doom that would come with being “found out.” And that great indicator of the national pulse, The Onion, published an article earlier this year titled “Report: Today the Day They Find Out You’re a Fraud.”

At StartupBros, Kyle Eschenroeder listed 21 ways to overcome that feeling. Here’s his list:

1.     Come off it. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s healthy to recognize that you’re not as important as you think you are. The standard of perfection that you feel you have to hit probably isn’t as high as you think.
2.     Accept that you have had some role in your successes. After all, you did something to get where you are.
3.     Focus on providing value. As Eschenroeder says, “The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely try to help someone else.”
4.     Keep a file of people saying nice things about you. You can revisit them whenever you’re feeling down about your work.
5.     Stop comparing yourself to that person. You don’t need to hit the standard of Einstein or Gandhi, or even that perfectly put-together classmate on Facebook. Learn to respect your own experience.
6.     Expose yourself totally. Eschenroeder describes impostor syndrome as a kind of “twisted arrogance.” This is akin to “come off it,” in that other people likely don’t hold you to as high a standard as you hold yourself. Let down your guard — it’s freeing.
7.     Treat the thing as a business/experiment. If no one is responding to certain things you do, don’t do them. (Job requirements aside, of course.)
8.     Say “It’s Impostor Syndrome” and it immediately becomes a little less terrible.
9.     Remember: Being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. Failure is part of life. It doesn’t mean you’re a fraud.
10.  “Nobody belongs here more than you.” Of course, the opposite is also true — you don’t belong where you are more than anyone else.
11.  Realize that when you hold back, you’re robbing the world.  Going through life convinced you’re a fraud prevents you from giving all you have to offer. The best way to be truly free and productive is to move forward despite your doubts.
12.  You’re going to die. And that creates a sense of urgency. Do you want to spend your entire life holding back because you felt like a fraud?
13.  Stream-of-consciousness writing. Do it for half an hour. It will put you in touch with what’s going on inside yourself.
14.  Say what you can. Even if you’re an expert on a topic, you don’t have to know everything about it. Focus on what you do know.
15.  Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone fails. You’re not an impostor for trying something risky.
16.  Take action. Eschenroeder says, “Impostor Syndrome lives in abstraction. It is impossible for it to survive when you’re taking action. Taking action proves that you’re not a fraud.”
17.  Realize that you are never you. You’re constantly changing into the person you’ll be. You are getting better.
18.  Authenticity is a hoax. It’s natural to present different sides of yourself or your work to different people.
19.  See credentials for what they are. Don’t measure yourself by credentials — measure yourself by your work.
20.  Find someone you can say “I feel like a fraud” to. Just verbalizing it can help you defeat it.
21.  Faking things actually does work. Keep trying to do things, even if they probably won’t work. You’ll get there eventually.

How do you get through those moments of professional doubt?

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