10 Ways To Solve The Imposter Syndrome

Do you routinely feel like you’re inadequate, incapable and a total fake? If so, you may suffer from a malady called the imposter syndrome.

The syndrome “convinces you that you're not as intelligent, creative or talented as you may seem,” explains an article on Mind Tools, a digital, on-demand career and management learning solution. “It is the suspicion that your achievements are due to luck, good timing or just being in the right place at the right time. And it is accompanied by the fear that, one day, you'll be exposed as a fraud.” (Read the complete article at  https://bit.ly/2Q4prBp)

Audrey Ruple, DVM and a Purdue University associate professor, notes 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 at the 2020 American Association of Bovine Practitioners Recent Veterinary Graduate Conference, 95% said they have suffered from the syndrome at some time or other.

“You’re here—and that’s evidence of your competence—but you're not convinced of your own ability despite this external proof,” Ruple told the group.

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 notes. “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.

So, how do you solve the problem of feeling like an imposter? Check out Ruple’s recommendations in her Bovine Veterinarian interview here:

Valerie Young* says it's important to realize that feelings are often the last thing to change in the process of addressing the syndrome. Instead, she says a good first step is to change how you think about yourself versus other people.

“People who don’t feel like imposters are no more intelligent or capable than the rest of us,” says Young, Ed.D., an internationally known speaker, author and leading expert on the impostor syndrome. Hear her Ted Talk at https://bit.ly/39IURVC.

“The only difference between them and us is that during the same situation that triggers an impostor feeling in us, they think different thoughts,” Young says. “That’s it—which is really good news—because it means all we have to do is learn to think like a non-impostor.”

So how can you accomplish that? Consider the following 10 steps Young outlines, 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.




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