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I heard the term Imposter Syndrome for the first time in 2019 when I was preparing a group of successful women for a panel discussion. My first encounter with this phrase occurred when one of the panelists suggested we speak about Imposter Syndrome. I hadn't heard of it before, so I immersed myself in researching, downloading books, and arranging interviews with experts for my podcast. As I delved deeper into this topic, I discovered I'd been living with it throughout my career.
What is Imposter Syndrome and How Do You Recognize It? Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals doubt their accomplishments and harbor a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Some statistics indicate a full 70 percent of people will experience this syndrome at least once in their lives. I suspect the number is even higher if we were all honest about it. Despite Imposter Syndrome's prevalence, it remains shrouded in mystery, often unrecognized. It's more than just self-doubt. There are several tell-tale signs that you can look for in yourself if you suspect you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome:

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Written by Laura Brandao
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An imposter works excessively hard, attempting to prove their worthiness. You may find yourself being exhaustingly detailed or diligent about a task and never feel that you have done enough to warrant the faith that has been placed in you.
Fear of failure
The thought of making a mistake can trigger intense anxiety, as it could potentially expose their perceived incompetence. This is a vulnerable feeling, as the fear of being outed as a fraud can be incapacitating for some people.
Discounting accomplishments
The achievements become mere coincidences attributed to luck or external factors, rather than to their skills or hard work. When you are offered praise for something you’ve accomplished, you wave it off and cannot accept the compliment to its face.
Unhealthy comparison
Constant comparison with others often leads to feelings of inferiority. You may spend time fretting over what someone else has accomplished and feeling that you need to be as good or better at the same task.
Difficulty accepting praise
Compliments are often brushed off or achievements downplayed due to a belief of unworthiness. Accepting praise may feel almost painful as you are so convinced that you are unworthy of any recognition of success.
My Own Brush with Imposter Syndrome The first time I remember the experience of having Imposter Syndrome occurred before I even knew it had a name. In 2018, I was asked to speak at an event, and I kept asking myself why in the world anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I couldn’t shake the feeling that, when I stepped out on that stage and opened my mouth, I would be exposed as someone who had no business being up there, and it would end in disaster. This was more than just a fear of public speaking. It was the fear of being exposed and feeling vulnerable, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I was afraid the audience would see through me and spot my unworthiness to be asked to speak to them and offer my views and opinions on the subject I was talking about.
Moving Past the Feeling of Being an Imposter The first step towards overcoming Imposter Syndrome is recognizing it. Once I identified the feelings associated with it, I realized I could deal with them. Acknowledging my unfamiliarity in certain situations didn't make me an imposter; it made me human. It was okay not to be an expert in every topic. I know I do not have all the answers and it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help, learn, and improve myself without the expectation that perfection is the goal.
I have learned to lead with my strengths and accept my weaknesses as part of who I am without making the weaknesses a point of judgment upon myself. This involved speaking up in areas where I had expertise and sharing my experiences with Imposter Syndrome to encourage learning and growth. I want others to know they are not alone in the feelings they are experiencing and even the most successful person in any room has experienced those feelings or may be having them at the moment we are watching them.
In fact, successful people, and those we look up to, have felt Imposter Syndrome at one time or another. And part of the reason they have become successful is that they have recognized those feelings, acknowledged them, and learned to overcome them in such a way that they are able to use them as motivation instead of obstacles.
Learning to accept oneself is also crucial. We need to understand there will always be someone seemingly better than us in some aspect. Yet, we each have unique talents and gifts that set us apart. It's not about perfection, but about the uniqueness each of us brings to the table. Comparing oneself to others is futile and can result in breeding insecurity. This kind of comparison is a falsehood. In the grand scheme of things, others are far more focused on themselves than they are on you.
We are all far too apt to look in our own mirror and be unable to recognize the person there as having intrinsic value. Our personal mirrors are often cracked and clouded with dust. It makes it hard for us to see ourselves as the worthy and valuable people we are.
It is vital we learn to see ourselves in our own mirrors and reflected in the reaction others have to us. Having someone else tell us our idea has great merit, or our accomplishment is valid. It is also important and should inform our view of ourselves. We need to learn to listen to the way others see us and accept their view as valid too.
In my journey to combat Imposter Syndrome, I learned to silence my negative self-talk. That little voice inside was designed to keep me safe from harm, not to belittle my capabilities. I had to amplify the voice of positivity and self-belief within me.
Focusing on helping others gave me immense happiness, bolstered my confidence, and steered me away from unproductive comparisons. It allowed me to embrace who I was without constantly worrying about how I measured up to others. When you can understand the positive impact you can have in the life of another person, you will see the value in your personal contributions to society, and your self-worth will increase.
Final Thoughts There isn't a magic wand to make Imposter Syndrome disappear overnight. It can resurface unexpectedly, but being aware of its manifestations can help in managing it effectively. There are ways to combat those feelings and use them to motivate change within us rather than let them limit our potential.
No one is perfect. No one is a complete expert. No one is incapable of mistakes. Everyone takes missteps. We all stumble, stand up and move on. When we fall, we learn and grow. Letting something like Imposter Syndrome stop us from accepting opportunities, appreciating and accepting praise, and enjoying the reward of success makes no sense when you stop and think about it in a logical fashion.
Whenever the unwelcome guest arrives, I stop, acknowledge its presence, and redirect the negative self-doubt into a positive affirmation. I realize I was born to share my light with others in a unique way.
I may not be the best at everything, but there's one thing I'm sure of: I'm the best Laura Brandao there ever was!