Updated: Feb 3, 2022
By Dr. Rob Carpenter:
Imposter syndrome is real. Not only does it make you feel like a phony, but it makes you feel like you’re going to get “caught” for being this so-called phony.
But regardless whether you have just recently started to feel like a phony or if you have been feeling like a one for a long time, you will continuously have to grapple with this phenomenon. And if you don’t master or overcome it now, it could have debilitating effects on your self-esteem, identity, and relationships with others over the long term.
When you feel like an imposter, the feeling of not being “good enough” will dominate your thoughts. And so too will the fear of being rejected if somebody finds out you are not supposed to be as successful as you are (or in the position that you’re in). As a consequence, you will continue to “compensate” by trying to be ever-more successful just to prove to others (and yourself) that your accomplishments are not a fluke. Yet with each new shiny star you add to your resume, you still just can’t seem to shake this feeling that you’re about to be exposed as a big fat fake.
Even though you know you’re not a fake, it can still be difficult to convince yourself that you aren’t. But you can still do it. Here are a few helpful tips to overcome the imposter syndrome that might be weighing you down.
Embrace that “fitting in” is the enemy.
When you understand that the desire to fit in to a certain group that you crave to be a part of causes and perpetuates your own insecurities, you can begin to reject the idea that you “need to” fit in (through success or accolades). By rejecting this need to belong to a specific group, you will relieve yourself of the pressure that this group will make or break your identity, self-confidence, and self-worth. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t still pursue your goals and succeed within the context of this group, it just means that you are rejecting the idea that fitting in or being accepted by others is the goal (and purpose) of your life (or success). Fitting in is not the goal; being successful is, and you can do that whether you fit in or not (even if not fitting in is a little more difficult to do).
Overcome the fear of failure and rejection.
By fearing failure and rejection, you are really just fearing people’s fickle opinions about you. And as a result, you are trying desperately to prove to them that you matter. But even if you do prove this to them, you might secretly believe that you don’t really matter, and so you will be keeping yourself in a straight-jacket of fear that is deepening your imposter syndrome. To break this, you have to stop fearing failure and rejection and start accepting the fact that you will fail at times and be rejected by some, but that this is not the end of the world (or as important as you think it is). Just be your best—that is all that matters.
Embrace that you are “better than you think.”
Because people—especially successful people—tend to judge themselves rather harshly, it can be difficult for them to get an accurate (or compassionate) perspective about themselves. So they see themselves as less capable and powerful than they truly are. This negative self-image worsens and worsens and, over time, becomes the default identity that fuels imposter syndrome. However, like with # 2, this can be overcome by simply starting to think better thoughts about yourself (you can do this by speaking or writing positive things about yourself, among other things).
Eliminating imposter syndrome will be a great challenge for you, but you can successfully do it as long as you start re-calibrating how you think about yourself. Once you make a few adjustments, you can get rid of the feeling that you’re a phony because you most certainly are not.
Dr. Rob is an author, filmmaker, and host of The Dr. Rob Show. He advises celebrities, pro athletes, and everyday people on how to live their best lives and has been published in The Oxford Business Review and The Harvard Journal for Public Health, among others. His book, The 48 Laws of Happiness: Secrets Revealed For Becoming the Happiest You, is available where books are sold.
Read our interview with Dr. Rob here!