10 Ways to Kick the 'Imposter Syndrome' to the Curb
Audrey Ruple, DVM and a Purdue University associate professor, reports that 70% of people in the general population will experience the imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.
She believes the issue affects an even higher percentage of veterinarians.
In an informal survey Ruple conducted of nearly 200 bovine veterinarians last year, 95% said they have suffered from the syndrome at some time or other.
She notes that veterinarians are high-achieving individuals and often perfectionists—two factors that while helping them get into veterinary school and succeed at their careers, also contribute to the problem. Fear of failure and extreme self-doubt are also contributing factors. (Think you have the imposter syndrome? Take this quiz to learn more https://bit.ly/2TCsSBx)
“A ‘light’ case of imposter syndrome is an annoyance,” Ruple says. “It’s a voice of detraction, a voice that takes away from all of your experiences that are positive.”
Left unchecked, the syndrome can contribute to anxiety, depression, addiction and, in extreme cases, suicide.
To solve the problem of feeling like an imposter, Valerie Young*, Ed.D., an internationally known speaker and leading expert on the issue, says it's important to realize that feelings are often the last thing to change in the process of addressing the syndrome.
So how can you accomplish that? Consider the following 10 steps Young provides and start putting them into practice.
1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.
2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.
4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.
5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.
6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.
7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.
9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking, and then dismissing, validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn-out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build.
*Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally recognized expert on Impostor Syndrome. She has delivered her often humorous and highly practical approach to overcoming impostor feelings at such diverse organizations as Boeing, Facebook, BP, Intel, Chrysler, Apple, Bristol Meyers-Squibb, McDonald’s, Emerson, IBM, Merck, Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble, Motley Fool, Raymond James, Space Telescope Science Institute, American Women in Radio and Television, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Trucking, Lung Cancer Partnership, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and many more.