I specialize in career coaching for women with impostor syndrome. It can hold us back in so many ways that we aren’t w
Before we start, let’s talk about what is impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a mindset in which we doubt our skills, talents or accomplishments. It’s fueled by the fear of being exposed as a “fraud” and it can have a massive impact on your career.
It can stop you from pursuing a dream career path, applying for a promotion, or speaking up and sharing your expertise with the world. I think most dangerously of all, it can keep you small and not living up to your true career potential. I think that’s the scariest thing of them all because as people who are high achievers, we are capable of so much, but we let this fear and mindset hold us back.
So how do we move past this? Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today! So if you are tired of playing small, safe, and comfortable and want to learn how to address your impostor syndrome to break out of your career, this is the episode for you.
1. Move Into A Career Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck Growth mindset coined the growth mindset and it is so important to apply that to our careers. This is the first step in overcoming impostor syndrome because impostor syndrome, at the root of it, is a mindset. There is no tangible situation, circumstance or action that causes self-doubt, it’s our perception of our career.
Carol Dweck, in her research and book, talks about the growth mindset vs the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset is when we think things happen in a linear trajectory and talents are given to us. People with this mindset believe that we are good at what we are good at and by checking certain boxes in our career, we will be successful.
On the other hand, people in the growth mindset, understand that successes come with the lessons of failure. People with a growth mindset do not see failures as a bad thing but as learning experiences. People in this mindset are able to accomplish more because they do view setbacks as not being “good enough,” but as a learning experience to get better.
It’s so important to move into a growth mindset and understand your limiting beliefs in your career like impostor syndrome, or thoughts like “I’m not good enough.” By moving into this type of mindset, you are able to move on from setbacks and view challenges as exciting, because if it doesn’t go as planned, it’s a learning experience. This is something I really coach my clients on because of the limiting beliefs around our career constantly pop up.
Lastly, it is important not to view the fixed and growth mindset as hard divisions. Don’t think about it as either/or, but rather as a spectrum. You don’t have a fixed or growth mindset, you move from one end to another and there’s a lot of beliefs and mindset issues along the way.
2. Keep track Of Your Accomplishments
It’s so easy to discount things from past successes. People who have impostor syndrome ironically tend to be people who are ironically high achievers. Michelle Obama has impostor syndrome. Sheryl Sandberg has impostor syndrome. Even Meryl Streep admitted having impostor syndrome even though she is one of the most acclaimed actresses of all time.
However, as people who are high achievers, it is easy to forget our past accomplishments because we always want to move onto the next big thing without ever really giving ourselves full credit for our success.
I’m completely guilty of this as well. I not only tend to gloss over my past achievements, sometimes I legitimately forget them completely. I have accomplished so much. But sometimes I’m terrified of seeming cocky or overconfident because it can come tumbling down at any moment. That’s why I’ve created something called the Interview Accomplishments Matrix for myself and my clients. This has helped myself and my clients organize their accomplishments to overcome impostor syndrome and it is a vital tool in interviewing which is what I coach in my program.
Having a list of past accomplishments really helps remind you of all of your past successes. So a list of your accomplishments and remind yourself that you have so much to offer.
3. Create A Mantra or Philosophy to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
One of the most important things about overcoming impostor syndrome is to release yourself of our past mistakes because that can be really driving the mindset that it’s holding you back.
So one of the best things to do is forgive yourself for past mistakes. This held me back for a very long time because I was embarrassed by my past quote/unquote “failures” and it held me back from ever trying for better achievements. If I couldn’t get the “X” job or have made an “X” mistake, what makes me think I could accomplish the “Y” goal?
That’s why I’ve created a mantra to help me overcome my self-doubt. My mantra is “I made the best decision with the information I had at the time.” So many times we put so much pressure on ourselves to perform with a certain level of success but a lot of times, that’s us looking back on the past. I think now about all the things 25-year-old Kim “should have done,” but I remind myself that “I made the best decision with the information I had at the time.” This helps me not get hung up on past mistakes that are fueling the present-day impostor syndrome that holds me back.
If you’re looking for more mantras, check out this article here!
4. Distinguish Fact from Feeling
As I discussed at the beginning of this article I talked about the fixed vs. growth mindset, do not label yourself as a failure. You may have failed a test, but that does not make you a failure. In order to really move into a career growth mindset, distinguish fact from feeling and learn how to grow from it.
A fact would be “I did not pass a test because I did not achieve over 50%.” A feeling would be “I feel disappointed because I didn’t do as well as I thought I would.”
For example, in my last 2 podcast episodes, I talked about what happened when I got rejected from an organization, twice. And in my last article about what to do after a bad job interview, I talked about the importance of getting interview feedback. In 2017, I did multiple tests as a part of job applications for the government and I didn’t do that well. But I learned from those mistakes and got better and ended up doing very well in my test in 2018. If I had told myself “I’m a failure,” I probably would have not tried again. But I was able to differentiate the feeling “disappointed” from the fact “I didn’t pass the test” and learning from the experience is what helped me overcome my impostor syndrome. Because I can pass the test, I failed the first time, I learned from it, and then I passed it.
5. Look At Your Story From Another Person’s Lens
Many times when we look at ourselves, we tend to be overly critical of our own accomplishments. However, when we talk about a family member or a friend, it’s easy to see the best of their accomplishments but it’s very difficult for ourselves.
So if you are struggling to overcome your impostor syndrome and doubting if you are capable of actually stepping into the next level of your career, look at it from another person’s perspective. What would you say to a friend who was in the same situation?
That’s why there’s so much value in career coaching. So many of my clients come to me because although they have supportive friends and a super loving family, it can be challenging to view your career from an objective perspective and working with a career coach can really help you isolate your impostor syndrome and call it out.
If you are someone who let’s impostor syndrome hold you back, then I know this episode was helpful because I’m going to share with you a little secret. If you are growing in your career, imposter syndrome never fully goes away. There is always the next level, the next position, the next challenge. However, once you learn how to address it and how to call it out when it comes up in your career, the possibilities are really endless.
And a reminder that my 1:1 career coaching program will be opening up in just a few days! If you are ready to break into the next level of your career without having impostor syndrome, make sure to look out shortly for on details on how to work with me.