5 Tips for Dealing With Impostor Syndrome

Stop chalking your success up to “luck.”

When I started at XO Group, I had just left my career in investment banking. I would often tell others how “lucky” I was to snag the CFO role, and I would promise my family, friends, and former colleagues that, once I’d racked up a few years in the role, I’d finally be the “real deal.” Looking back, I realize that was impostor syndrome talking.

Now, after almost four years at my job, I recognize that the CEO, board of directors, and employees were excited when I was hired as their new CFO. I got the job because I deserved it: I had amassed the necessary experience — and, moreover, I was up to the task.

While I’m confident in the workplace today, that wasn’t always the case. Over the years, I’ve held many different jobs — from administrative assistant to research analyst and, later, from venture capitalist to CFO. In each of these roles, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt completely unqualified or overwhelmingly doubtful about my chances for success. These moments were paralyzing and extremely stressful.

If you’ve convinced yourself that your accomplishments are only the result of dumb luck, of course you’re going to feel like a complete fraud. And when these feelings begin to consume your everyday thoughts, impostor syndrome can seem impossible to overcome.

The good news? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 70 percent of people will experience at least one episode of impostor syndrome. Even renowned American author John Steinbeck confessed in a 1938 diary passage: “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”

Life is hard enough without having to inflict more pain on yourself. Simply put, give yourself a break! Put one foot in front of the other and tackle each obstacle, issue, and fear with the mindset that you’re learning and growing with each new day. If ridding yourself of the nagging impostor syndrome seems difficult, you can beat the blues by trying the below tips.

Embrace the Fun Parts of Your Identity

I love people, and I love to laugh. So, I try to bring that joy to my day-to-day dealings. I try hard not to fit into a specific mold or live up to an arbitrary standard that people may have of me and my role. Essentially, I am branding my own take on my role, and that is very freeing.

Cultivate a Good Team

There’s no point in pushing yourself in isolation. Very little gets accomplished all on your own. Instead, surround yourself with people who are great at what they do, and encourage them to tackle big challenges. And be sure to take the time to learn from them as well.

Take Note of Your Wins

Appreciate and acknowledge your achievements — no matter how small — when you wake up each morning and before you go to bed at night. Every day before I leave for work, I write down my goals and plans for the day — what I want to accomplish and how I’m going to do it. Before I turn in for the night, I recap the wins I’ve had, what I’m grateful for, and what I learned that day. The key is not to dwell on the negative, but instead to see how losses can become learning experiences for the future.

Become a Mentor.

There’s no better way to continuously remind yourself of your expertise than to become a mentor. In helping others, you can share what you’ve learned throughout your career, which in turn will increase your own sense of self-worth. It’s amazing what a 30-minute chat with a mentee can do for your confidence.

Seek Out a Great Company Culture.

I’m grateful to have found a boss and team at XO Group whom I can be honest with. Our company culture inherently helps diminish impostor syndrome by promoting productive conflict, encouraging constant feedback, and making sure that everyone in the room has a voice. We’re constantly challenging each other — in a positive way — and we’re great at picking each other up if at first we don’t succeed. If you work in a toxic environment, it’s no wonder if you’re paranoid. Start positioning yourself now to transition to a more positive and encouraging company.

Ultimately, we all want to get better every day. Use that mantra as motivation so that you can celebrate your achievements, take your mistakes in stride, and accept the fact that your work will never be 100 percent flawless. And truly, that’s OK. And when the worst happens, try to remember that the sun comes up every 24 hours, giving you another shot at a great day.

Join the Discussion

2 Responses to “5 Tips for Dealing With Impostor Syndrome”

  1. claudia

    Great advice! Thank you.

  2. Demetrius Bewley

    This was beyond helpful… Thank you very much.