March 15

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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Stop Second-Guessing Yourself

If you have ever felt like an imposter or like you are not good enough, you are not alone. Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon where people feel like they are not as smart or capable as they really are. This can lead to self-doubt and a fear of being exposed as a fraud. In this article, we discuss strategies on how to overcome imposter syndrome and stop second-guessing yourself.

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How to overcome imposter syndrome in 9 steps:

1. Examine Your Beliefs

You are what you think you are. Beliefs are a feeling of certainty that something is true. They guide your actions and behaviors and ultimately determine the course of your life.

The first step in learning how to overcome imposter syndrome is to pause and reflect. What do you believe about yourself and the world? Do you believe that you are smart and capable? Do you believe you deserve success? Do you have a positive can-do attitude? These are important questions to answer.

If you have self-defeating beliefs, it will be difficult to embrace your success and own it. It takes self-awareness and a commitment to exposing false beliefs about your inadequacy.

Begin by examining the truth of your beliefs. Examine the stories and evidence you have mentally collected. Are your current beliefs REALLY true?

Most likely, you will uncover some distorted thinking contributing to imposter syndrome. If that’s the case, turn those false beliefs around into positive statements. Create a set of new beliefs to guide you.

2. Confront Fear and Build Confidence

“Fear is real. The “it’s-only-in-your-imagination” treatment doesn’t really build confidence and cure fear.”

– David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

Denying the existence of fear can be destructive. It’s more helpful to acknowledge that you feel fear so that you can then move forward constructively.

Another unhelpful attitude is the belief that you shouldn’t feel fear. If you think that you need to eliminate fear to feel truly successful, you will NEVER feel successful.

We’ll repeat it. Fear. Is. Real. And it’s normal.

What’s the answer for when you feel fear? Action.

Action helps to minimize fear and build confidence. As you face your fears and move forward, you will begin to feel better about yourself.

“Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”

– Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., Feel the Fear… and Do It Anyway

Facing your fear and taking action will help you overcome imposter syndrome. Try this exercise the next time the fear of being exposed as a fraud surfaces. Isolate the fear and write it down. Then ask yourself, “what kind of action can I take to overcome my fear?” Then take action! You can always take some kind of action for any type of fear.

Fear doesn’t have to run your life. Understand that almost everyone experiences fear when they are growing. It isn’t always necessarily a signal to withdraw or retreat.

3. Focus on Competence Not Perfection

Would you like to know how to overcome imposter syndrome FAST? Purge the idea of perfection from your mind.

Perfectionists’ fear of failure is greater than the joy of experiencing success. Perfectionists are not resilient. They have a constant nagging feeling that they are an imposter. Why? Because they focus on the end result, not the process. And when your worth is measured by the end result or product you are in big trouble. This is especially true if you are plagued by imposter syndrome where your self-expectations are entirely magnified.

“Perfection is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough—that we should try again.”

–Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way

Instead, focus on competence, not perfection. Perfectionism robs you of happiness and confidence. On the flip side, when people feel competent, they have a more optimistic outlook on life and feel more power over their environment.

Here is an exercise from the book The Magic of Thinking Big for you to try. Write down five things you do really well; we’ll call them strengths. Next, under each of those strengths, write the names of three people you know who have achieved considerable success but do NOT have this strength to as great a degree as you.

What did this exercise teach you? Can you conclude that you don’t have to perform everything perfectly to be successful? You are bigger than you think. Most likely, people view you as a successful high-achiever right now.

By exploring your beliefs about perfectionism and shifting your focus on the process rather than the end result, you can learn how to overcome imposter syndrome.

4. Reframe Failure

“No one likes to fail. Imposters positively hate it. The fact that researchers have found a strong link between fear of failure and the imposter syndrome is hardly surprising.”

– Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women

As you learn how to overcome imposter syndrome, take a long hard look at how you respond to failure, mistakes, and criticism. Here are some questions from Valerie Young’s book we’d like you to answer. Answer yes or no.

  1. When things go wrong, I automatically blame myself.
  2. When I make a mistake, I have a really hard time forgiving myself.
  3. I often walk away from conversations obsessing over what I said—or “failed” to say.
  4. I remember every dumb thing I ever said or did.
  5. I take even constructive criticism personally, seeing it as proof of my ineptness.

You aren’t alone if you answered yes to many or all of these questions. People with imposter syndrome have a tendency to internalize failure and take things personally.

Let’s set the record straight; it is impossible to achieve high levels of success without meeting failure, setbacks, and opposition. It’s part of life. The important thing is to maintain an attitude of growth. When you fail or make a mistake, study what happened, learn from it, and adjust your approach. Put the situation in proper perspective. Just because you feel like a failure doesn’t mean that you are.

“Failures are the stairs we climb to reach success.”

– Roy Bennett

Here are two exercises you can use to reframe failure.

First, actively seek out constructive criticism. The more you are exposed to constructive criticism and feedback, the less likely it will send you into a tailspin of self-doubt. You will also gain valuable insights into how you can be even better at your job.

Second, practice decatastrophizing events. What does that mean? Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches that distorted or illogical thinking leads to bad feelings like depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and, of course, imposter syndrome. One form of distorted thinking is catastrophizing—which is when one dreads or assumes the worst when faced with the unknown. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen if I fail? How likely is that to happen? And will it matter one year from now?

5. Rethink Risk-Taking

“Building your risk-taking muscle begins with the recognition that new challenges will always create a certain amount of inner tension. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t up to the task. Not only should you expect to feel afraid, you should worry if you don’t.”

– Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women

According to Valerie Young in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, people experiencing imposter syndrome fall into two camps, one avoids risks and plays it safe, and the other compensates by taking more chances.

If you are already a risk-taker, congratulations! As you drop all the imposter syndrome baggage, you’ll feel more confident and self-assured when you take risks.

However, if imposter syndrome causes you to play it safe and avoid risks, then it’s time to build your risk-taking muscle.

It’s time to take some risks simply for the sake of taking them, knowing that you might not perform perfectly. As you practice taking risks, you will gain confidence and a sense of personal empowerment that cascades into all parts of your life.

Ask yourself this question, “what would I try if I didn’t have to do it perfectly?”

6. Build Resilience

Resilience is key when learning how to overcome imposter syndrome. Resilience is commonly defined as the ability to bounce back after setbacks. It’s a mindset.

Resilient people see challenges as opportunities. They understand that no one is perfect. When something goes wrong, or they make a mistake, resilient people seek solutions rather than berating themselves and falling into self-doubt.

Imposters fear making any mistakes. As a result, they perform well but don’t take chances to perform at their very best. Does this sound like you? If so, building a resilient mindset might be the missing link. If you are willing to push your limits, make mistakes, and learn from them (without self-condemnation!), you can conquer imposter syndrome and achieve higher levels of success.

There are two core components of resilience: competence and confidence.

Confidence is rooted in competence. You gain confidence by demonstrating competence in real-life situations. As you experience your own competence in coping with challenges and facing adversity, you build self-trust and a capacity to bounce back from any situation—especially when imposter syndrome strikes!

An excellent exercise to build resiliency and overcome imposter syndrome is to reflect on past experiences when you overcame a challenge or dealt with a problem effectively. Describe the situation and how you successfully managed it. How can you draw on those successes to face any difficulties you have now?

7. Find your purpose in life and set goals

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

How does finding your purpose help you overcome imposter syndrome? Feeling like a fraud leads to self-doubt and fear—doubt about one’s capabilities and fear of being exposed. These intense feelings can cause one to become paralyzed and unable to take action and move forward. Imposters find themselves constantly second-guessing, so they do nothing.

That is where purpose can make a radical difference. When you determine your purpose and focus on it, your brain automatically shifts into solution mode. Instead of fixating on your shortcomings and second-guessing yourself, you begin taking action to fulfill your desire. It is immensely empowering!

Think of your purpose as your internal navigation system—like flight controls on an airplane. Not only does following your purpose ensure you are headed in the right direction, but it also gives you confidence when you can’t see at all. When imposter syndrome strikes, when you are confused or have doubt and fear, rely on your purpose to move forward.

Discovering your purpose can be a very involved process as it’s determined by your life experiences, core values, personal strengths, and views about work and life. You can begin by reflecting on the following questions:

  • What core values do you live by?
  • What are your primary strengths?
  • Why do you work? What’s it for?
  • Why are you here? What do you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
  • What is your legacy?
  • What are some actions you can start taking to get you to where you want to go?

8. Take Action!

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of action. Learning how to overcome imposter syndrome is not enough. You must take action.

“Don’t wait until conditions are perfect. They never will be. Expect future obstacles and difficulties and solve them as they arise.”

– David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

Where have you been playing it small? Where has imposter syndrome been holding you back? What have you been avoiding?

Make a list of actions you can take in response to the questions above. Once you have your list, select one. Don’t postpone. Don’t come back to it later. Choose one action that you can take now and do it. Action cures fear and builds confidence.

9. Fake It Til You Make It: Thinking and Playing Big

And the final step on how to overcome imposter syndrome: fake it til you make it!

People suffering from imposter syndrome are typically very intelligent, capable, and successful (yes, that includes you!). They just don’t feel like it.

We aren’t talking about lying here. Nor are we talking about an irrational or inflated sense of self-confidence. Some people are overly confident, but not people with imposter syndrome. People with imposter syndrome are usually the opposite. They have earned their success but are still overwhelmed by self-doubt.

Take some time to write down your thoughts on what it would be like to be free of imposter syndrome. How would you feel? How would you act? What would you do differently? What new behaviors would you adopt? Create a new vision of yourself. Whenever you feel imposter syndrome strike, pretend that you are that person. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel authentic. As you embody the qualities of a confident and successful person, you will eventually become that person.

“The closer you get to believing that you actually can do it, the more likely you are to receive an unwanted visit from that niggling inner voice. The one that demands to know, Who do you think you are? In reality the question you should be asking yourself is Who do I think I am not to go for it?”

– Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women

Final Thoughts on How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

If you find yourself struggling with imposter syndrome, remember that you are not alone. Many successful people deal with these same feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. But by using some of the strategies we’ve discussed, you can start to build confidence in yourself!

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Download our FREE Overcome Imposter Syndrome Workbook

Jess & Kara


Our life’s calling is to help you increase your confidence. It is a culmination of our life experiences, study, and real-world trials and tribulations. We are dedicated to teaching you how to build your confidence and empower you by providing inspiration, support, resources, and proven techniques so that you can feel better about yourself and create a life that truly embodies your unique greatness.


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business, career, imposter syndrome


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