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How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome and a Harsh Inner Critic
Doubting yourself is totally normal but letting it stop you is your choice
Have you ever felt like you're a fraud, even though you've achieved a lot? That's imposter syndrome. It's a common feeling, especially among successful people.
Your inner critic is that voice in your head that's constantly putting you down. It tells you that you're not good enough, that you're going to fail, or that you're a sham.
Imposter syndrome and your inner critic are related, but they're not the same thing. Imposter syndrome is a specific psychological condition, while your inner critic is more general. It's possible to have an inner critic without having imposter syndrome, and vice versa, but they often go hand in hand. If you have imposter syndrome, your inner critic is likely to be very strong. It will constantly tell you that you don't deserve your success, and that you're going to be exposed as a fraud.
These can have a big impact on your self-esteem and confidence. It can also make it hard to take risks and try new things. The good news is there are effective strategies to combat those nasty intrusive, imposter thoughts. Let's break it down:
Here are eight techniques I've found helpful:
Create an evidence folder, aka a confidence portfolio. Documenting wins, positive feedback, and accomplishments helps ground us in reality. Refer to it when the imposter rears its head.
Use the T.H.I.N.K. framework. Ask yourself: is this thought True, Helpful, Important, Necessary or Kind right now? If not, you can intentionally shift your mindset.
Compare yourself to your past self, not to others. Focus on incremental progress based on your unique path. Celebrate small milestones!
Build systems and processes. Rely less on motivation, which fluctuates. Create structures that set you up for regular small wins. Focus on process over perfection. Outcomes are often outside our control. But we can control the process of iteration and improvement.
Adopt a growth mindset. View abilities as developable over time through practice. This reinforces skill-building and continuous learning, and this relieves imposter feelings and disarms the inner critic.
Get some perspective by pretending you're advising a friend. This is known as distanced self-talk. Speak to yourself like you would your bestie. And be assertive — don't let your mind talk negatively to you. You can do this!
Buy your inner critic a retirement gift, literally, so that when the intrusive voice speaks up, you can promptly remind the voice that it’s been retired.
Resist the so-called “forcing functions”: these are self-help concepts, productivity systems, etc., that we hear about and then we set our success against those systems and goals. Sometimes we plant them as our guide post without realizing how it forces us to evaluate our life against a concept that might not be realistic. This can set us up for negative self-talk.
With time and practice, we can show our imposters and critics the door. Remember: the feeling is normal, but you have the power to reframe your thoughts. You belong here just as you are. Keep being your awesome self! And of course, bringing on a coach is a strong move for support with these strategies.