How to Stop Thinking Like an Impostor

Have you ever questioned if you’re capable of doing the job you’ve been vying for?

Do you ever feel like “If I can do it, anybody can”? Have you ever wondered why the heck they chose you to lead that project?

Yes? Then join the club. What you’re experiencing is called the impostor syndrome. When we feel like a fraud or our successes are underserved, that is the impostor syndrome kicking in. It happens to most successful people at some point, even celebrities. Meryl Streep once said, “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”

The first time I felt the impostor syndrome was shortly after I earned my Nationally Certified Resume Writer credential. At the time there were barely 50 people with this credential, many of who had been in the industry for 20+ years. My thought was how could I possibly be in the same group after only a mere 2 years in the industry.

Luckily, I didn’t let that thought paralyze me from moving forward. A lot of people do end up holding themselves back with these kinds of thoughts. The key to overcoming the impostor syndrome is being able to recognize those thoughts or negative self- talk and understand how you can turn them around.

Also read: 4 Ways I’ve Learned to Overcome Impostor Syndrome as a Woman of Color

Valerie Young, Ed. D., an internationally-recognized expert on impostor syndrome and author of the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It says, “If you want to stop feeling like an impostor, you have to stop thinking like one.”

Here are some common impostor thoughts and how you can turn them around:

“I’ve never done anything like that before. Why did they pick me?”
This is just your fear of the unknown showing up and it’s completely normal to have this fear. To overcome this thought you need to remind yourself that the people who got you here are very competent and did not make a mistake. Then start believing it’s okay to fail or ask for help or struggle a bit before you master a new role.

Another way to overcome this thought is to go the fake it ’til you make it route. I like to say it’s the “act as if” plan. The more you start doing the easier it will be to change your beliefs about your abilities.

“It’s all my fault this didn’t turn out right.”
Perfectionism and impostor syndrome tend to go hand in hand. If you hear yourself saying this, ask yourself what does that really mean? Was it truly a failure or did it just not meet your overly high expectations?

Celebrate the small wins to start turning around this type of thinking. New skills take time to master. Be adaptable and willing to learn. Most of all cut yourself some slack if you didn’t feel you met your own expectations.

Also read: Women: 5 Ways to Empower Yourself

“You probably know this better than me…”
This one is particularly dangerous because it’s easy to say out loud and not just in your head. If you say this to a co-worker or worse, a client, it immediately tells them you’re not confident in your abilities. To overcome this thought, ask yourself why you felt inadequate, what were you doing at the time? Are you noticing patterns when this comes up? Once you know your triggers you can start to take actions to address those concerns.

So is there any good that comes out of feeling like an impostor? Definitely, yes.

For one, it means you’ve achieved a certain level of success. Like I mentioned in the beginning, celebrities and other highly successful people experience this phenomenon, so pat yourself on the back that you’re doing something right.

Then the other good thing about impostor syndrome is it can drive you to step out of your comfort zone. That is where personal growth happens. Successful people are continuously stepping out of what is comfortable so they can learn something new.

What is making you feel like an impostor? And if you’re not feeling like an impostor, is it time to explore something new? Please share in the comments, below.


About the Author

Self-proclaimed job search geek, Michelle Robin takes the often frustrating and miserable task of job search and makes it more enjoyable, perhaps even fun, for her clients. An award-winning dual-certified resume writer (NCRW, CPRW) and founder of Brand Your Career, Michelle helps sales and marketing executives transform their career marketing materials into a package that wows their target employer. Click HERE to register for Michelle’s free training, The 5-Step Game Plan to Land 6-Figure Marketing Roles Without Resumes or Attending Networking Events.