In recent years, the term “impostor syndrome” has become an increasingly common topic of discussion. People with impostor syndrome may believe that they are not truly qualified for the role they hold or may attribute the success they’ve achieved to mere luck. This can lead to unfounded feelings of being “unworthy” or fears of being “found out.” And no one is immune; imposter syndrome is an issue that affects everyone from entrepreneurs and CEOs to entry-level professionals.
Left unchecked, this all-too-common phenomenon can be detrimental to both work performance and mental health. Fortunately, it’s possible to combat these negative perceptions and feel more confident in your achievements, worth, and potential. Below, 16 members of Fast Company Executive Board share their best advice to help those struggling with impostor syndrome.
1. FIND A MENTOR.
Mentoring is essential for combating impostor syndrome. Whenever you feel unqualified for the role that you hold, identify what exactly is making you feel that way and then talk about it with a trusted outside advisor. Additionally, know that you too have expertise to share. By mentoring someone else, you will realize how much knowledge you have and uncover skills you took for granted. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP
2. VISUALIZE SUCCESS.
First, know that you are not alone. Leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have all experienced this feeling. Second, boost your confidence by visualizing success and what it will take to navigate your role and the situations you may encounter. This will help you own the role you play in your own success. – Krishna Kutty, Kuroshio Consulting Inc.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS.
Always leverage your strengths, and never expend too much energy trying to convert a weakness into a strength; that seldom occurs. You’re better off perfecting what you’re already good at. Be swift to recognize when a role doesn’t adequately leverage your strengths and be decisive in repositioning yourself to harness your strengths and add value. – Todd Miller, ENRICH 101
4. LOOK BACK AT YOUR SUCCESSES.
Look back at your accomplishments and be proud of what you have overcome to get where you are. Don’t let external influence control your internal ideology. You have experienced success because of who you are and what you were willing to sacrifice to get there. – Brad Burns, Wayne Contracting
5. MAINTAIN YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR THE ROLE.
Learning is not easy; it can trigger self-doubt and anxiety. However, this discomfort is a sign that you’re growing. The only way to fully qualify for a role is by doing it for a long time. Focus on who you are, the unique skills you have that can add value to the role, and why you are excited about this position. Enthusiasm and grit go a long way in struggling through the learning process. – Liza Streiff, Knopman Marks Financial Training
6. CELEBRATE YOUR WINS.
The advice I would give someone who struggles with impostor syndrome is to reframe your view. You are almost certainly overestimating other people’s competence and underestimating your abilities. To combat that, create a “wins” folder in your email or on your desktop to keep positive feedback and other work wins, and go visit that folder on days you’re feeling self-doubt. – Alexandra Cavoulacos, The Muse
7. BECOME A LIFELONG LEARNER.
Develop an “always-learning” mentality. Focus on your strengths and approach your weaknesses as areas of opportunity for future growth. It is never too late to learn new skills when you have the right attitude. Also, remind yourself that you’re not there by accident—you are a leader, and others have confidence in your ability to succeed. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing
8. EMBRACE THE JOURNEY.
The world is seeing an unprecedented creation of new businesses, and most of them are either aiming to accomplish something nobody has done before (for example, Elon Musk working to put people on Mars) or making things completely different from how they are usually done. If you’re in that position, you’re the first to be doing what you’re doing and there’s no way to be qualified for that. Embrace the adventure! – Nicolas Susco, (ea) ElipseAgency
9. ASSEMBLE A SUPPORTIVE TEAM.
Be authentic. The key to being a good leader is to realize that you aren’t perfect and you don’t have all the answers. It is about self-awareness and building a team of brilliant people who plug your weaknesses, nurture your strengths, and as a whole help you to become more resilient, agile, and equipped to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny
10. KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
The best way to feel like you can do something is to push through and do it. The mistake that most people make is waiting to feel “qualified” to take action. It’s actually the opposite; once you take action and do everything in your power to go after your dreams, you will feel inherently qualified. – Jeremy Almond, Paystand
11. CONTINUE TO GROW IN YOUR ROLE.
It’s important to remember that no one develops knowledge and skill spontaneously. Everyone has to grow into their role through experience and trial and error. Also, realize that you don’t have to be perfect to fit a role. You just have to do the best you can and learn as you go. When you have specific tasks to do, you’ll automatically grow into them and achieve them. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
12. PINPOINT THE REASON FOR YOUR FEELINGS.
Identify the source of doubt. Is it internally driven, or is someone else questioning your abilities? If it is the latter and that person cannot provide constructive criticism or support to help you reach your highest potential, reconsider that relationship, not your ability to do something. If it is the former, take small steps toward a goal to build your confidence. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
13. RECALL PREVIOUS OBSTACLES YOU’VE OVERCOME.
I see this a lot because each new client forces us to switch gears a bit. Recalling the last time you were faced with uncertainty and what you did to tackle it helps. It reminds you of effective first steps, which removes some uncertainty, and it reminds you that you’ve been through this before. An excellent driver can navigate an unknown road because years of practice have given them the needed skills. – Jason Cottrell, Myplanet
14. EMBRACE WHAT YOU HAVE TO CONTRIBUTE.
I have worked across the full spectrum—from startups to the highest levels of NGO leadership—and not one person I’ve encountered has ever felt fully qualified. My overall reaction when I saw it in myself was, “No one is coming to save us who can offer something ‘better’ than what I can contribute.” Never again have I felt like I belonged in a certain position any more or any less than the highest person in the company. – Dianne Dain, World Humanitarian Forum
15. WORK WITH A COACH.
I don’t believe you’re ever fully qualified for a role. Did Bill Gates think he’d be curing malaria one day? Likely not. Imposter syndrome is a very natural feeling. I used to run away from this part of me—I tucked it away. Now, I embrace it. Fear is a natural part of growth. To anyone experiencing that discomfort, I recommend hiring a coach to diagnose your feelings and together, build confidence. – Melanie Fellay, Spekit
16. KNOW THAT THESE FEELINGS ARE COMMON AMONG HIGH ACHIEVERS.
Imposter syndrome is a common feeling among high-achieving individuals. Once you realize this, you can see that imposter syndrome is one way of recognizing that you are pushing your boundaries and seeing success as a result. Give yourself some credit, and recognize the challenges that you’ve overcome—you’ll realize that you have earned your position through hard work. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC