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7 Tips for Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

You've got yourself a nice job at a design firm. People are following you on social media, and some of them even message you when they need creative inspiration. 

That's all great, except you feel like you're hiding a secret: you're not really the talented and creative person everyone thinks you are. You're obviously faking it, and it's just a matter of time before you're found out. You cringe when someone praises your work because you think it was a fluke that it went viral. 

This is called imposter syndrome, which is a bigger problem these days than it's ever been. Let's take a closer look at what it is, along with tips for dealing with imposter syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Usually, when you think of successful people, you think they're probably confident with their abilities. But imposter syndrome is born of success and affects those who have achieved status. 

In short, imposter syndrome (sometimes spelled impostor syndrome) is feelings of inadequacy despite your professional accomplishments. You live in fear that you'll be "found out", whether it's through a social media post that falls flat or a project that goes off the rails. You chalk up all of your success to this point to luck or the universe doing you a favor. 

You're not alone if you're having these types of thoughts. Some big-name celebrities have spoken out about their perceived inadequacy, even those who have had long and successful careers. 

It's not a new phenomenon: it has been researched and written about as far back as 1978. The focus of the early studies was on women, who were thought to be affected by it more than men due to gender roles. But it turns out both genders are equally affected (if not more men.) 

It's also not classified as a mental illness, but there are related components of imposter syndrome such as depression or anxiety that are. 

Now that you know a little more about the imposter complex, here are some ways you can deal with it. 

1. Embrace Your Victories

You might have had help from a team to accomplish a goal, but that doesn't make your success any less. If you were on a basketball team that won the championship, and you gave it your all on the court, would you refuse to hoist the trophy?

You might deflect compliments on your success by reflex. But instead of shooing away people who send praise your way, just thank them. Avoid the "it wouldn't have been possible without this other person" narrative. Chances are without you, the project wouldn't have worked out the same way. 

2. Don't Look To Others For Validation

While it's OK to take the praise of others as a feather in your cap, you shouldn't consider it a barometer for your abilities. You may be creating amazing work and then feel like it's a failure because no one patted you on the back. 

Sometimes, your accomplishments won't get the level of hype that some others do. But that shouldn't deter you. If you feel like you put in the effort and achieved the goal you set out to do, then that should be enough. 

3. Don't Overestimate Your Importance

A sense of self-esteem is key to your overall well-being. But when you have an idea of yourself that you're perfect (an inflated sense of self-importance) or believe you're the most valuable person in the room, you're only setting yourself up for a letdown. 

That's because if you achieve anything less than that, you're going to feel like a fraud. Perfection is unattainable, and even successful people have bumps in their professional road. 

4. Raise The Bar

Your instinct with imposter syndrome might be to lower your standards before someone else notices that you're not as good as you're made to be. However, that's not doing yourself any favors. You may become less satisfied with your work if it's no longer challenging or not benefitting anyone. 

Instead of taking on work that you think you can easily do to maintain your image, try for new heights. If you fail, you'll know that it's because you reached higher than you ever have before, and it might take a couple of leaps to get there. If you succeed, then you won't feel like an imposter at all. 

5. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously

You might think you need to be unflappable for people to take you seriously. Like somehow, if you crack a joke at your own expense, they will roll their eyes and not think you're talented anymore.