future proof your career leadership training Imposter syndrome

The Imposter Syndrome: How To Combat Self-Doubt For Career Advancement

The term ‘imposter syndrome’ has been in use since 1978 when it was introduced by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. Both of whom struggled with self-doubt despite their obvious success in their chosen field. It was this which led them to embark on a study program of other successful women similarly afflicted by self-doubt.

The American National Institute of Health describes imposter syndrome as ‘a behavioural health phenomenon described as doubt of intellect, skills or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals.’

Self-doubt, feeling like a fraud and subsequent fear of failure can affect anyone in any field. It can happen at any stage of their career.

Combating self-doubt in order to advance your career involves a combination of strategies. These are aimed at building self-confidence, gaining clarity and then taking action.

Identify the reason for imposter syndrome

What triggers your self-doubt? Is it the fear of failure or feeling not good enough in comparison with others? When you understand the root cause you can begin to address the problem.

Challenge negative thoughts

When self-doubt creeps in, challenge this with evidence-based reasoning. Ask yourself if you have any actual reason or evidence to support this feeling or if they’re based on past experiences or assumptions.

Be kind to yourself

Acknowledge that everyone experiences self-doubt at some point. Even leader Elon Musk has admitted to suffering from self-doubt over public speaking. Give yourself a break when things get a bit challenging. Focus on your strengths and talents and leverage them throughout your career. Keep reminding yourself of past successes and times when you’ve overcome challenges – keep a written record of these.

Continuous learning

Invest in your personal and professional development through ongoing learning and skill-building activities. The more you learn the more confident you’ll become in your abilities.

Set realistic goals

Break down your career goals into small, achievable steps and celebrate each time you achieve a new milestone. Keep a record of your progress to help build confidence and block imposter syndrome. Visualise yourself achieving all your career goals and imagine how you will feel. This helps to reinforce positive thinking.

Seek feedback from supportive people

Ask for feedback from trusted colleagues, mentors or supervisors. Constructive feedback can provide you with valuable insights and help you recognise where your strengths and talents lay. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you and encourage you in your career goals. Avoid those who would undermine your confidence or feed your self-doubt.

Take positive action against imposter syndrome

Sometimes the best way to combat self-doubt and power through your career is to take action despite those niggling feelings. Break out of your comfort zone and take calculated risks. Once you have done this for the first time your confidence will get a massive boost and you will find it becomes easier and less nerve-wracking to keep taking those small steps forward. Don’t be afraid to sometimes seek support from a mentor as you advance in your career.

Overcoming self-doubt is an ongoing process so be patient and keep taking those small steps to greater self-confidence.

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