Since our book, Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt and Succeed in Life came out, journalists, podcast hosts and our followers on Instagram and LinkedIn are always asking us “how do you overcome Impostor Syndrome?”
It’s often super hard to cover it in a sound bite that’s appropriate for an article, podcast or comment, but here we can talk through our 3 C’s (Clarify, Choose, Create) model for overcoming Impostor Syndrome with a lot more detail.
Phase 1: CLARIFY
The 1st Phase is about understanding the fundamentals of your Impostor Syndrome
#1 – Identify Your Origin Story
It begins with figuring out the unique factors that are central to your Impostor Syndrome. Everyone has their own story and reasons why their Impostor Syndrome developed. Discovering and identifying yours helps you to be readily prepared for your next step.
#2 – Know Your Triggers and Trap Doors
Your unique factors contribute to your triggers and being able to know what yours are can help you to take that all-important moment between triggers and reaction to choose another behavior (i.e., NOT one from your Impostor Syndrome repertoire).
#3 – Change Your Narrative
There is so much dialogue going on internally that is reinforcing your Impostor Syndrome. Voices that tell you that you are a fraud and incompetent and that the only way to keep others from learning this is to overwork, overfunction, and make no mistakes. But this isn’t true!
These and so many other thoughts keep us trapped in behaviors that continually support our Impostor Syndrome and don’t relay information that is reality-based and healthy for us. So, working on the stories that we tell ourselves that are only entrenching this system of belief further is critical for “restorying the narrative” to a more accurate one.
Phase 2: CHOOSE
The 2nd Phase is about making conscious choices behaviorally to break the Impostor Cycle
#4 Speak Your Truth
Once you have worked on the things that you need to tell yourself, you have to work on what you say to others and how you talk about yourself publicly; how you accept compliments; and with whom to share your Impostor Syndrome struggle and recovery.
#5 Silence Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)
Next, it’s important to put those Automatic Negative Thoughts in their place. What thoughts are we talking about? We are talking about the thoughts that pop into your head when you are facing one or more of your triggers.
For example, when you are struggling with a task and you think:
“What’s wrong with me! These things should come easily now.”
Or if you make a mistake, and you think:
“OMG, everyone saw that. They must be thinking that I don’t deserve this opportunity that I am incompetent.”
What’s important is that we learn that:
“We are not our thoughts. We are the observer of our thoughts.”
It is critical to discover what ANTs are specifically connected to your Impostor Syndrome and to learn how to rationally respond to them with answers like:
“I made a mistake. I took accountability for it. We are all human. Everyone makes mistakes. There is room for mistakes in growing.”
…instead of eviscerating yourself for a mistake that reinforces the feelings of incompetence that underlie Impostor Syndrome.
#6 Value Your Self-Care
Impostor Syndrome also leaves us devaluing ourselves in the way that we prioritize self-care. Self-care is not just anything you do for entertainment or relaxation. It is any activity meant to fill your tank and give you a sense of rejuvenation. Not just mental (i.e., engaging in active problem solving – therapy, journaling, talking with mentors) rejuvenation, BUT ALSO physical (i.e., releasing physical stress, tension and taking care of the body – massage, exercise, yoga, stretching) and reflective (i.e., being present and in the moment – meditation, religious practices, mindfulness activities, and gratitude exercises).
It’s about hard booking these activities regularly into your schedule so that you are purposefully, conscientiously, and consistently filling your tank because burnout is a significant problem for people who struggle with Impostor Syndrome.
Phase 3: CREATE
The 3rd Phase is about creating environments around you that support your movement away from Impostor Syndrome
# 7 Experiment with New Roles
When we experience Impostor Syndrome, we can get stuck in rigid roles. Some of the common ones discussed are:
The Super Woman/Man – “I need to do the work of 3 people.”
The Natural Genius – “If I am truly intelligent, I shouldn’t need to work so hard.”
The Expert – “I must be the most knowledgeable person at the table.”
The Soloist – “I can’t work with others because if they make a mistake I will be responsible.”
The Perfectionist – “I need to do this perfectly and make no mistakes.”
It’s important to diversify the roles that we take up in the world. Some of the most valuable roles that people with Impostor Syndrome need to work on and try are:
The Help Seeker – seeking advice and assistance from others
The Risk-Taker – learning to take calculated risks for yourself and your dreams
The Collaborator – working on team cohesion
The Knowledge-Receiver – admitting knowledge gaps and learning from other experts
The Visible Leader –being more visible and prominent in high stakes situations
Learning to take up these new roles allows you to have a much broader perspective of yourself and a greater orientation toward learning and flexibility.
#8 Establish Your Dream Team
Struggling with Impostor Syndrome can often be a very lonely experience. It’s so important when you are working on overcoming it to NOT DO IT ALONE. You need to create a Dream Team of people around you to support you in your process. Some of the team member roles that are critical are:
The Mentor – a senior person in career experience
The Cheerleader – your supportive boost
The Grounder – your “go-to” for a reality check
The Action Planner – helps create a plan when you have an impostor-triggered issue
The Big-Picture Person – helps put things into perspective
The Impostor Expert – understands how Impostor Syndrome works (e.g., can be a fellow “Own Your Greatness” book club member)
Someone can hold more than one role, but it’s important to have more than one person on your dream team to have a variety of people you can reach out to especially while you are actively working to combat your Impostor Syndrome.
#9 – Understand and Create the Conditions for Optimal Performance
Learning how to be able to take all your new skills with you and recognize that it takes conscious interrupting of old behaviors and thoughtful practice of new behaviors to move away from Impostor Syndrome are vital for performing optimally without Impostor Syndrome as your guide. This means actually setting reminders for yourself about what you are trying to do instead and clear understanding of your triggers and old Impostor behaviors.
I hear a lot of people feel resigned when they discover they have Impostor Syndrome and yes, it does take a moment to process and recognize how Impostor Syndrome has played a role in your career, but when you are ready to address it, there are methods to use to make a less salient experience in your life. The key is addressing it head on and developing the tools and community you need to combat it.
We will be offering a companion course to the book in September. If you are interested in learning more, check out details about the 12-week course where you can get personalized coaching from us.