4 Tips on Outwitting Your Imposter Syndrome

Leadership | Personal Development

It was midnight on October 21, 2022, and I had just poured myself a cup of Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf Hot Tea (highly recommended). I settled into the couch and readied myself for what was about to come: Taylor Swift's release of the highly anticipated album Midnights. The first two tracks were stellar, of course. Then track three, "Anti-Hero," began playing. As I listened, I caught myself looking around the room and thinking: "Are the Alexas in my house taking it a step further and listening to my thoughts and having them sent to T-Swift, who is using them as album material?"

"Anti-Hero" is a song that encapsulates the self-doubt that many of us face. It's a typical millennial's therapy session summarized in under five minutes. In the song, Swift writes about confronting her inner demons and insecurities and goes into great detail about getting in her own way of truly feeling happiness.

While I could write a full white paper on the lyrics of ”Anti-Hero”, I'll get to the point of why I highlight this one song: For me, the song encapsulates the self-doubt I let get in the way of achieving my goals and the importance of overcoming it to build my confidence and improve my overall well-being.

This self-doubt comes in many forms, but in this article I want to focus on the crippling self-doubt often know as “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling of doubt in your own skills and accomplishments despite what others may think. The phrase was first described in 1978 by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance and was used to describe feelings of self-doubt from high-achieving women. In recent years, it has become clear that it is common among everyone regardless of gender, seniority, or line of work. In fact, 82% of people in one study reported struggling with Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is like having a voice that lives in your head rent-free, casting doubt anytime you succeed. It makes you feel like what you bring to the table isn't good enough and can send you down a spiral that can upend your mental health. So, how can we quiet these voices and gain a sense of validation in what we're doing?

I wish I could say there was a simple phrase to snap yourself out of this headspace or eliminate Imposter Syndrome entirely, but it's not that simple. Instead, we have to learn how to live with it or even how to use it to our benefit.

1. Question the Voice

Do you remember Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show? They were two old guys whose entire purpose on the show was to heckle and jeer the Muppet cast from the comfort of their balcony seats. If there was ever a visual representation of imposter syndrome, this would be it.

When the voice in your head starts heckling you, making you question yourself, don't let it take over and continue heckling. Instead, start questioning it. Why is this voice saying that you aren't worthy of this recognition? Simply questioning it may help you invalidate those feelings and stop the self-doubt in its tracks.

2. Use it as Motivation

Imposter syndrome often arises during times of significant change, such as a promotion or transitioning into a new role. Recognize this as a normal response to stepping out of your comfort zone and use it as motivation to push through.

Don't let it hold you back and instead let it propel you to navigate these new, uncharted waters.

3. Prepare

Where I’ve found the most success of leveraging my imposter syndrome for good is in preparation. When you feel like an imposter, it’s easy to doubt your abilities and think that you’re not good enough. Instead of leaning into doubt, use it as fuel to work harder and be more prepared in the situation.

For example, if you have a client presentation, spend a little extra time preparing your deck and delivery. Run it by colleagues to get their feedback on how you might improve. That way, when the time comes to present, you’ll feel more confident.

4. Give Yourself a Break!

When I’m doom scrolling on social media, living vicariously through my peers’ manufactured lives, I sometimes catch myself comparing my life to others. “Aren’t we the same age?” “How can someone take me seriously when people like this exist?”

Stop that! First, recognize that what people put on social media is a snapshot of their best selves. An influencer parent may snap a shot of their well-groomed children playing nicely with their #ad toys in their impeccable house but fail to post what happened five minutes later when the kids are fighting one another for that now broken toy and have spilled grape juice on the dog who is now tracking it all over the house.

Cut yourself some slack. Everyone has their own journey. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made and continue to work on building self-confidence and self-compassion. Remember, you are capable and deserving of your accomplishments, and it’s important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem.

Imposter Syndrome is exhausting, but it doesn't have to hold us back. By questioning the voice of imposter syndrome, using it as motivation, preparing, and giving ourselves a break, we can learn to live with it and even use it to our advantage.

Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" may have brought up my own feelings of imposter syndrome, but it also reminded me that it's possible to quiet the inner critic and believe in ourselves. It's up to us to choose whether we let it hold us back or push us forward.

Don't let self-doubt or imposter syndrome hold you back from reaching your full potential. Take control of your career and invest in yourself with IA's best in class training. With expert instruction and hands-on learning experiences, you'll gain the knowledge and skills you need to excel in your role and build confidence in your abilities.

About Jake Blocker

Jake Blocker creates and executes marketing initiatives for Interaction Associates (IA). He’s involved from initial ideation to the creative development and the analysis of the results. If you were to merge the left and right brain into a job, you would have Jake’s role at IA.