If you feel like a fraud at work and worry that someone will discover you're not the competent professional you appear to be, you're suffering from what psychologists call Impostor Syndrome. It's not terribly pleasant, but don't worry too much--it's also not rare in the slightest.
Around 70 percent of people suffer from the sensation of faking it at one time or another, and even accomplished role models like Tina Fey, Maya Angelou, and Sheryl Sandberg have admitted to experiencing the issue. (Notice all those examples are women? Yup, impostor syndrome is more common among female professionals.) Plus, experts on the issue insist that those who fret about being impostors tend to be more intelligent and competent than those who are unruffled by self-doubt. So not only is the problem common, but it also might be a good sign regarding your abilities.
All of which, let's hope, will relieve any shame or worry you feel over impostor syndrome, but all the reinsurance in the world doesn't make daily anxiety any more pleasant. So even if this isn't a dread diagnosis, you're still probably in the market for a cure. Another lucky side effect of the prevalence of the problem is just how many suggested solutions are available. Recently a pair of useful posts offered a baker's dozen of ideas.
1. Focus on the present
The first set of suggestions comes from Gulnara Mirzakarimova, previously a banker and now a software engineer at Jibe. While studying programming at coding boot camp Hackbright Academy, she suffered a severe case of feeling like a fraud. Recently on the Hackbright blog, she shared her suggestions for overcoming the feeling.
The first is simply to push your thoughts away from unknowns and what-ifs. Worry only about what's in front of you now. "While I was at Hackbright I didn't worry about not performing on the job, because I didn't have one yet. My goal was to finish my final project where I was writing my own programing language and then prepare for interviews," she writes.
2. List what you don't know
Another of Mirzakarimova's straightforward tips: Face anxiety head on by listing the things you need to learn and then start learning them. "Make a list of things that you do not know and the things you 'think' you don't know. Just learn them. You will be so busy you will have no time to worry," she says.
3. Surround yourself with smart people
This might sound like a recipe for feeling even more inadequate, but don't forget the easiest way to fill in gaps in your knowledge is to spend time with people who are smarter than you and willing to help you learn.
"I was the first female engineer hired at Jibe, and no, it didn't scare me one bit," she writes. Why wasn't she intimated? The team might have been filled with big brains, but they were also willing to be resources. Take her colleague Brian, for example: "Brian is a senior developer and simply put is a genius, but most importantly he is a patient teacher thanks to whom now I do not hesitate to take on huge projects because I know I can deliver them."
4. Break down big problems
No matter how intimidating the issue you're facing, it is no doubt made up of several smaller components. Break it down and start tackling these more manageable pieces one by one.
5. Accept that no one knows everything
Can you imagine how boring life would be if you had nothing left to learn? "There is so much I do not know yet, and it is amazing, because otherwise why live if you know everything?" Mirzakarimova concludes.
6. Admit your issue
Mirzakarimova isn't the only one offering tips. Over on the Buffer blog, Mike San Roman also confessed his struggles with feeling like a fake and offered a list of quick and dirty ways to fight back. His list kicks off simply: Recognize and accept your feelings of being an impostor. There's nothing to be gained from repression.
7. Really hear compliments
We tend to fixate on negative feedback and problems and let praise go in one ear and out the other. Fight this tendency, San Roman suggests. "When you receive positive feedback, embrace it with objectivity and internalize it," he writes.
8. Don't attribute your successes to luck
Not only does this shortchange your abilities, but it also ignores the fact that a huge component of luck is your outlook and how you approach your life. Be grateful for your blessings, but also take ownership of what you've accomplished
9. Change your vocabulary
Notice whether you minimize your accomplishments when you speak about them and try to kick the habit if you do. "Don't talk about your abilities or successes with words like 'merely,' 'only,' 'simply,' etc.," suggests San Roman.
10. Keep a journal
Fighting imposter syndrome is yet one more reason to keep a journal (there are plenty of others). "Writing your successes and failures down gives you a retrospective insight about them, and rereading them makes you remember equally both of them," San Roman asserts.
11. Stop believing in perfection
Striving to be flawless will drive you a little insane and make you less productive and creative. Believing there is anyone flawless out there will give you impostor syndrome. "Recognize that the perfect performer doesn't exist, and that problems will pop up eventually," San Roman says.
12. Recognize humility as a strength
"You know you've reached true success the day you become truly humble. That's the day you stop needing to prove to the world--and yourself--that you've accomplished something meaningful," serial entrepreneur Naveen Jain wrote on Inc.com recently. San Roman agrees with him. Humility is underrated. Embrace yours as an advantage and sign of strength.
13. Accept help
Trying to go it alone all the time will only aggravate your impostor syndrome. Recognize that even top performers need assistance.
Do you have any other ideas to add to this list?