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Everyone Suffers from Impostor Syndrome — Here’s How to Handle It

29 September 2016

From Harvard Business Review:

One of the greatest barriers to moving outside your comfort zone is the fear that you’re a poser, that you’re not worthy, that you couldn’t possibly be qualified to do whatever you’re aiming to do. It’s a fear that strikes many of us: impostor syndrome.

I know I’ve certainly had those thoughts while publishing pieces of writing, whether it’s blogs or books. I’ve had them while teaching my first university classes and giving speeches to corporate audiences. I appear confident on the outside but feel deeply insecure on the inside, wondering who I am to be stepping up to this stage. What could I possibly have to say that anyone would want to hear?

. . . .

What can you do to overcome these feelings of inadequacy that so many of us experience?

A first tip is something that Portman highlights in her Harvard address, which I’ve found quite helpful: Recognize the benefits of being a novice. You might not realize it, but there are great benefits to being new in your field. When you are not steeped in the conventional wisdom of a given profession, you can ask questions that haven’t been asked before or approach problems in ways others haven’t thought of.

. . . .

A second tip for combatting impostor syndrome is to focus more on what you’re learning than on how you’re performing. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, the feelings that impostor syndrome leaves you with are ones we might actually be able to control. With a performance mindset, which people suffering from impostor syndrome often have, you tend to see your feelings of inadequacy or the mistakes you make as evidence of your underlying limitations. This mindset only fuels the concerns you have about being unfit for your job. But there’s something you can work to cultivate instead: a learning mindset. From this perspective, your limitations are experienced quite differently. Your mistakes are seen as an inevitable part of the learning process rather than as more evidence of your underlying failings.

Link to the rest at Harvard Business Review

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6 Comments to “Everyone Suffers from Impostor Syndrome — Here’s How to Handle It”

  1. Leaving a comment to get comments, though that bit seems to be broken …

    ETA And the ‘Notify me of new posts by email.’ seems to be dead too.

  2. Everyone has to learn to write. Some learn along the way, publishing better and better books each time. Others don’t let the horse out of the barn until it can do pirouettes.

    Impostor syndrome is exacerbated when you get blistering critiques of your work, but drops to zero when you have the self-confidence (the antidote) to say “I know what I’m doing, and what you’re objecting to I did on purpose – and I like the way it came out.” There are less polite ways to say this.

    It doesn’t hurt if readers agree with you, say they love what you write, and want more.

    I think every writer has to come to that place of security at some point, even if the whole reading world doesn’t come with them.

    It comes down to: do some of your readers get you?


  3. So be an imposter. Don’t ruin a good thing. Just keep playing the role.

  4. “Everyone Suffers” is classic click-bait, especially when you see that the article actually says, “many of us.” And then there are those who are not affected by it at all.

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