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Juliet Meeks, an artist and designer based out of New Orleans, recently posted on Instagram a touching look into the emotions she sometimes feels as an artist and business owner. She described feeling the self-doubt so common with professionals who deal with imposter syndrome, but I did not realize how prevalent the struggle was until I began doing some research.

We are not alone in these feelings. Whether it be interns, lower management, upper management, C-suite executives or anything and everything in between, imposter syndrome touches everyone; but especially those who are not traditionally in power, like women and BIPOC. BBC shared that according to psychotherapist and executive coach Brian Daniel Norton, “when you experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are less-than or undeserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind, imposter syndrome will occur.”

“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud,” writes Megan Dalla-Camina, strategist and author for Psychology Today. “Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.” 

But it’s not just something that is worrisome on a personal level. 

“Not only can imposter syndrome be a negative force on someone's attitude and mind, it can also impact their work,” writes TechRepublic Associate Staff Writer Macy Bayern. “Feelings of inadequacy often end up making people believe in their insecurities, forcing their fears into realities.” 

To combat the effects of imposter syndrome, we must change the fundamental way we approach these feelings. Valerie Young, an internationally-recognized expert on imposter syndrome and author of the award-winning book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It,” shares 10 steps to combating imposter syndrome:

  1. “Break the silence.” Speaking on your experiences with feelings of inadequacy allows for a healing process to begin. Silence does nothing but force you to deal with imposter syndrome alone.
  2. “Separate feelings from fact.” The basis of overcoming imposter syndrome is understanding that while these emotions can feel very real, if you separate tangible evidence from emotional influence, many times you are exactly where you should be.
  3. “Recognize when you should feel fraudulent.” “If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in,” says Young. “Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.” 
  4. “Accentuate the positive.” It’s second nature to want to be the best, so sometimes when we falter, negative thoughts are close behind. Mistakes are made everyday, but they do not overshadow the hard work that has been done. Accept responsibility, but do not accept that your failure is everything.
  5. “Develop a new response to failure and mistake making.” Young explains it perfectly: “Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.”
  6. “Right the rules.” “If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, ‘I should always know the answer,’ or ‘Never ask for help’ start asserting your rights,” says Young. “Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.”
  7. “Develop a new script.” Think of your script as the initial thoughts that run through your mind when beginning to feel imposter syndrome. Instead of allowing negative and demeaning words, try thinking affirming and positive things.
  8. “Visualize success.” If you focus on the negatives, they are bound to happen. Picture yourself succeeding in your endeavors and you will walk in with more confidence and an outlook that favors winning.
  9. “Reward yourself.” When you do something well, even if you believe it was required, positive reinforcement will change the way you feel about yourself.
  10. “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Last, but certainly not least, Young shares that “now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering ‘winging it’ as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.”

As I continue to grow and combat the effects of imposter syndrome in my own life, Meeks’ parting words will continue to resonate with me: “I can’t move on to the next stage of coming into my own if I’m clinging to the insecurities holding me back.”

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Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
August 26, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.