3 tips to overcome imposter syndrome

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
3 tips to overcome imposter syndrome

Meryl Streep once said, "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?" Renowned Academy Award winner Meryl Streep – the actor who holds the most Academy Award nominations!


It goes to show that even the most accomplished people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a "pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary."





Imposter syndrome: A female trait?

While early research on the topic identified imposter syndrome as more of a female trait – in fact, when imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes theorized that women were uniquely affected by the syndrome – the latest research suggests that the imposter phenomenon is spread more equally among men and women. In some circumstances, men experience its effects more than women. One group of researchers found that men displayed more imposter syndrome-like symptoms when put under pressure. “Collectively, our findings suggest that male [imposters] fair worse when confronted with performance cues than do female imposters,” the authors wrote.

To find out if you have imposter syndrome, answer the following questions:

tips to overcome imposter syndrome

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome.

The roots of imposter syndrome

There is no single answer for where imposter syndrome comes from. Some experts believe it has to do with personality traits, like anxiety or neuroticism, while others emphasize external factors, such as environment or institutionalized discrimination.

Women are one example of a demographic that have consistently faced institutionalized discrimination. As women shifted from traditional household roles to the workforce, overcoming the mental glass ceiling came with imposter syndrome. Having been socialized to believe the high-achieving workforce is for men, women can often feel their success is due to luck or circumstance, or fake in comparison. Social beliefs that “only men” can do certain things fuel feelings of imposter syndrome.

Psychologist Eleanor Maccoby wrote, “Suppose a girl does succeed in maintaining, throughout her childhood years, the qualities of dominance, independence, and active striving that appear to be requisites for good analytic thinking. In so doing, she is defying the conventions concerning what is appropriate behavior for her sex…It is a rare intellectual woman who will not have paid a price for it: a price in anxiety.”

According to THNK leadership coaches Ien van Duijnhoven and Paul van ‘t Veld, imposter syndrome stems from fear. Ien says, “it often comes from childhood, where you didn’t learn to develop your own inner compass. So, you start looking at yourself from the eyes of others. Most of the time, you are less than them, so you become very insecure and anxious, waiting for somebody to say, ‘Yes, you are worthless.’ In the meantime, you are saying this to yourself.”

Indeed, research has shown that there are certain factors during childhood that increase the risk of imposter syndrome, including growing up with a gifted sibling (if your sibling is considered exceptional, you might develop feelings of inadequacy) and being labeled “the clever one” (children who are taught that they are superior in intelligence, appearance, or talent can develop imposter syndrome when they struggle to achieve something).

tips to overcome imposter syndrome
Fear is not something to shy away from. Fear is an important voice, not one to push away or ignore. #fear #leadership #impostersyndrome #impostor #creativeleader #vulnerability #creativeleadership Click To Tweet

Overcoming imposter syndrome

This fear is not something to shy away from. In fact, fear is “an important voice, not one to push away or ignore,” says Ien. To work with your fears, Paul suggests a few things you can do:

  • Connect the dots. People with imposter syndrome generally do not acknowledge how they got to where they are. To remedy this, it’s important to ask yourself: What got you here? What skills, mindsets, and behaviors have helped you? Look at the facts that helped you to get to where you are.

  • Test your assumptions. What are your limiting beliefs? Are you sure that these are 100 percent true? What small experiments could you do to test your assumptions?

  • Assess your strengths. Those who suffer from imposter syndrome tend to focus on the negatives and what they’re missing. Instead, focus on what you have that you can build on. What are your gifts? Do you have an accurate assessment of your strengths?

Lines like “You can do it!” are not helpful because you never know – there is no guarantee. The main thing is to not leave your fear alone and let it manifest.

To overcome your imposter syndrome, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.