How to Get Over Impostor Syndrome

How to Get Over Impostor Syndrome
by Sarah Pike
Photos Ashley Batz | December 04, 2015
Overcoming impostor syndrome is no easy feat, especially since study after study shows that for women, it's almost unavoidable. Still, there are ways to rediscover our innate confidence.
Are you too hard on yourself? Do you brush off compliments by saying, “I just got lucky” or “It was nothing”? 

Most people—even the most successful among us—have moments of self-doubt or admitted weaknesses, especially when it comes to the workplace. But that doesn’t take away from the work you do well or the accomplishments you achieve. And it’s important to recognize and celebrate what you’ve done well—not as a “happy accident," but as a deliberate reflection of your hard work and intelligence.
Of course, overcoming impostor syndrome—or the feeling that any accomplishment is not indicative of your hard work, but rather just luck—is easier said than done. The first step to beating impostor syndrome is recognizing it for what it is.

“The fear that others will discover you have been bluffing your way through is very real,” says Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. “For example, ‘impostors’ who equate competence with perfection believe every aspect of their work must be exemplary – not just some or even most of the time, but 100 percent of the time. Anything less results in harsh inner criticism coupled with deep shame.”
With this in mind—and the knowledge that you’re not alone in this battle—let’s look at how to overcome feelings of inadequacy, embrace your strengths, and even just learn to take a compliment. 


Statistically, women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t meet 100 percent of the qualifications, according to Slate. Meanwhile, men will give it a shot even if they only qualify for 60 percent of the criteria. As women, we tend to think that we must do everything perfectly before it “counts."
Stop comparing yourself to other people’s visions of success, especially how others portray themselves through social media.
You can start to overcome impostor syndrome by recognizing that you don’t have to be perfect; no one is. If you made one mistake in a presentation, you didn’t completely screw it up. You may not know everything in your field (who does?), but you don’t have to. It doesn’t mean you’re an impostor, it means you are smart enough to continue learning. Asking a question when you aren’t sure or admitting a gap in your knowledge can actually make you look more confident in the long run.


“Some of us feel like we won't be good enough until we have the perfect bank account, marriage, kids, career, home, car, shoes and hair -- or whatever success looks like to you,” said Abiola Abrams in a recent Huffington Post article.

Stop comparing yourself to other people’s visions of success, especially how others portray themselves through social media. Define what success means to you and list all the ways you’ve already achieved this. 

Not only will you be on the path to fighting impostor syndrome, but you’ll recognize the areas where you still have work to do. And, as you know, high-achieving gals always love a well-defined goal.


Even those who suffer from impostor syndrome also have moments of extreme confidence. Maybe you absolutely nailed the quarterly report, contributed great ideas to a meeting, or earned a bonus. (Go, you!)

Dr. Young advises that we ride that wave and savor those moments. Use that feeling of confidence to encourage even greater confidence and a strong belief in what you’re doing.

It may help to keep a journal of your successes to look back on when you’re feeling unsure of your abilities and to save performance reviews, LinkedIn endorsements, or any other kind of written compliment people give you.


Ever heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it”?

If you start acting more confidently, you’ll begin projecting that confidence, and soon, you’ll “fool” yourself into believing you really aren’t a fraud. Or, more accurately, you will accept your true inner greatness. 
Maintain an elegant and confident stance in the workplace, and choose your words to reflect strength and confidence. Avoid wishy-washy qualifiers like “I think” or “I guess” and say what you mean. Project your confidence through your wardrobe, body language, and speech.


Just a quick search on the Internet will show you that the world is filled with strong, smart women—many of them high-profile execs, authors, and even performance stars—who confess to having impostor syndrome. Looking at these women can make us feel better about our own self-doubts.
If you start acting more confidently, you’ll “fool” yourself into believing you really aren’t a fraud. Or, more accurately, you will accept your true inner greatness.
Find professional and personal mentors you can trust in your own life who are willing to share their own stories of overcoming impostor syndrome and give you the boost you need. 


No matter how we try to act the part and surround ourselves with other successful women, a little voice inside may tell us that projecting confidence is not attractive, feminine, or proper. That’s when you should turn to your favorite fictional characters—whether on TV, in books, or on blogs—to remind you that the girls can not only get the guy (when she wants him), but they can get the promotion, the perks, and, on occasion, a chance to save the world, too. You won’t see these women brushing off a compliment, although they may face doubts as they head into a task. 

And maybe that’s what overcoming impostor syndrome is about—feeling the fear and moving forward anyway. 

Have you ever felt like an impostor? How did you deal with it to get the job done?