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Emotional Health

5 Expert Ways To Outsmart Imposter Syndrome + Boost Your Confidence

Discover how your 'imposter personality type' will help your authentic self shine

You’re a high achiever who makes multitasking look like child’s play. Yet, despite your accomplishments and well-earned praise, you still feel like a fraud — like you’ve been fooling everyone, and it’s just a matter of time before people discover you’re not good enough. Sound familiar? It’s an all-too-common phenomenon called “imposter syndrome,” and it can tank your self-esteem. Here, three mental health experts share easy ways to outsmart this sneaky form of self-sabotage, so that you can curb inner doubt and proudly share your true gifts with the world.

What is imposter syndrome?

“The feeling of imposterism is an experience of intellectual phoniness that exists and persists despite evidence to the contrary,” says psychologist Jill A. Stoddard, Ph.D., author of Imposter No More tells Woman’s World. And it’s perfectly normal.

“Know that you are not alone — up to 86% of people have reported these thoughts,” Stoddard says. “The good news is that worrying about your competence is a giant red neon arrow pointing toward what you care about most. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t worry. These feelings, painful as they may be, signal that you’re right where you’re meant to be: doing important work.”

“Imposterism,” in fact, is positively correlated with success: the more you achieve, the more likely you are to feel it. “It isn’t a signal of weakness,” Stoddard insists, “but a sign that you’re taking on challenges, and challenges are challenging! Be gentle with yourself.”

MUST-READ: 6 Expert Tips to Boost Confidence and Increase Your Joy

1. Pinpoint your ‘imposter syndrome type’

“Ask yourself in which contexts do you have these feelings, and in which do you feel more confident,” urges Stoddard. She explains that according to research by Valerie Young, Ph.D., there are five “imposter types”: The Expert, The Soloist, The Perfectionist, The Natural Genius, and The Superhuman:

  1. The Expert is focused on how much they know, so that even a small gap in knowledge will churn up feelings of imposterism.
  2. The Soloist has to take it all on themselves—if they need help, they feel like a failure.
  3. The Perfectionist feels like if they fall just a smidge short of an impossibly high hurdle, they must be a fraud.
  4. The Natural Genius is used to learning and adapting to everything quickly; when they don’t, they fall into the imposter trap.
  5. The Superhuman is a multitasker and then some, so if they feel like they dropped just one ball, they beat themselves up.

Simply being aware of which type is most like you, will help you curb unfair thoughts of inadequacy, notes Stoddard. To learn more, take a quick Imposter Personality Quiz.

2. Take self-compassion breaks

While a lot of imposter feelings stem from stories we’ve long told ourselves, it’s just as helpful to note that there are other factors in the environment outside of our control, like racism and sexism, making us feel less capable than we are.

“Being able to acknowledge that there are forces telling you that you don’t belong and knowing these feelings aren’t just coming from inside of you, can help you challenge them and reduce self-blame,” says psychologist Rachel Goldsmith Turow, Ph.D. tells Woman’s World.

She recommends taking self-compassion breaks, by reminding yourself that your feelings are perfectly normal. “We don’t have to believe every thought that pops into our head, so just take a minute to remind yourself, ‘This is a moment of suffering, and that’s a part of life—but I will support myself and I will believe in myself.”

Smiling woman making a heart shape with her hands
Be kind to yourself to defuse self-doubtGetty/Traimak_Ivan

3. Keep an inventory of superpowers

When reeling from self-doubt, look to no further than your “kudos file” for a boost, encourages expert Gina Vild. “To help you separate your thoughts from facts, jot down your talents and ask your friends to innumerate your strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “This helps you see that we’re all on a continuum and everyone has different assets and liabilities — it helps you stop comparing yourself to others and defuses imposter syndrome.”

She also recommends starting a “high-five-file” full of external validation. “Every time you get complimentary email or someone sends you a nice note, throw it in the file and periodically read through it to remind yourself of your accomplishments.”

Woman flexing her arms in a power pose, overcoming imposter syndrome
Overcome self-doubt by “tallying” your talentsGetty/Westend61

MUST-READ: Tired of Feeling Underestimated? Here Are 6 Tips for Restoring Confidence

4. Fake it till you make it

Sometimes donning the “cloak of confidence” is even more important than the real thing. “Whether you simply smile or adopt a ‘power pose’ with your shoulders back and head held high, confident body language creates a cascade of positive hormones which help you push past negative feelings of being a fraud,” says Vild. “Even if you just take a moment before a stressful meeting to elevate your arms above your head and breathe deeply, when you project confidence, you’re perceived as confident.”

5. Share your gifts to diffuse imposter syndrome

Because the imposter syndrome phenomenon is by nature directed inward, simply focusing on people around us — and what we can give them in terms of our time and talents — is often enough to widen our perspective, notes Vild.

“Flip setbacks on their head by seeing them as learning experiences because failure is not a life sentence,” she says. “Life is too short not to make a gift of ourselves. When we’re seeking wonder and sharing with others, we’re not thinking about if we’re ‘good enough,’ because we’re simply enjoying the moment.”

Close up of a woman holding a red gift box (imposter syndrome)
Never underestimate just how much you have to give Getty/naruecha jenthaisong

For more stories about boosting confidence, keep reading…

How to Recover From Any Setback and Reclaim Your Confidence

7 Ways to Re-build Your Confidence Right Now

How to Stop Taking Things Personally: 6 Expert Tips to Build Resilience

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