Impostor syndrome is real and it happens to us all to some degree. 

I remember times in my life where I held positions of great responsibility.  For 8 years, I was the Head of Communications for the Mayor of Denver.  I’d built my career as a an expert public relations professional.  The Mayor clearly believed in me and others did as well.  Yet sometimes I’d wake up in the morning and wonder, “Is today the day they discover I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing???” 

WTF???  Was it because I was intimidated?  Was it nerves?  Basic insecurities?  Was it because I really believed I sucked at my job? 

Experts define impostor syndrome  as a common psychological pattern where people maintain an internal feeling of inadequacy, failure and simple self-doubt.  Impostor syndrome doesn’t discriminate and affects all kinds of people.  People in great positions of power – CEOs for example – have described how they believe they ‘don’t deserve’ their positions or that they must have fooled someone into believing in their abilities.  In the face of the evidence of great success and achievement, they feel inadequate; like a phony!

Sound familiar? 

I regularly meet with job seekers who, despite great success, accomplishment and experience, shroud themselves with the irrational insecurities defined by impostor
syndrome. Their fears and insecurities limit their opportunities and at worse, their job search is completely debilitated, scared they will be exposed as a fraud.

Despite having progressed their careers to great success, despite amazing accomplishments and experiences, when faced with the daunting task of finding a new job and convincing others that they are worthwhile and add value, they fall into the trap of these ‘stinking thinking’ voices that highlight what they believe are their most negative qualities. 

  • “I’m too old.”  
  • “I’m under-qualified.”  
  • “I don’t have the right kind of experience.”  
  • “They’ll never hire me, what am I thinking?” 
  • “I’m over qualified.” 
  • “Someone is going to discover that I’m really not very good.”

Why does impostor syndrome occur?

  • It might be that you are a perfectionist and never believe your work is good enough.  
  • It might be that you are re-living a voice from long ago from a parent or teacher or boss that was overly critical.
  • It could be you are a high achiever who believes that no matter how successful you are, it’s never enough.
  • It could be a current work situation in which a boss is never satisfied with your work or you feel held back.
  • It could be that you are simply full of irrational self doubt and, when facing a new situation can’t summon the confidence or belief in yourself. 

Everyone deals with impostor syndrome differently.

Here are some strategies to dealing with impostor syndrome:

  • Realize that these feelings of inadequacy are not real.  They are not founded on anything real and you are the only one who is giving these feelings life.
  • Remind yourself of the hard work, time and effort you put into your career and to becoming successful at what you do.  These experiences of becoming successful at your craft are REAL and you should constantly acknowledge to yourself that your success is the result of your efforts.
  • Practice taking ownership of your success.  Think about some of your proudest accomplishments and practice telling the stories about how you achieved those successes.  Write the stories down, say them out loud and get comfortable taking credit for your accomplishments.
  • Facts are powerful things.  When feeling insecure, remind yourself of what things ARE REAL.  Create a fact file that spells out specific facts that define your accomplishments, your valuable experiences and your worthwhile skills.  These are the things that nobody can take away from you.  They are yours and yours alone.

When you wake up in the morning, instead of those ‘stinking thinking’ voices that are convincing you that you are not worthy, replace them with voices of positivity and optimism that reminds you of your successes and the value you bring.

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