Source: The New York Times | By Jessica Bennett
The term “impostor syndrome” was coined in 1978 by two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. It describes that nagging feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t belong, that you don’t deserve the job, the promotion, the book deal, the seat at the table. Imposter syndrome is it is common among high achievers, creative people and students, especially women.
My impostor syndrome has played out during public speeches, job negotiations and when I received my first book deal — prompting me to ask, “But why would anyone pay money to read what I have to say?” My editor, a woman, didn’t miss a beat: “I often wonder the same about my editing!” she said.
So you’ve talked to yourself in the mirror and made lists of your accomplishments, and you still feel that impostor feeling creeping in. Here are
- #1. Talk to a colleague or friend. Has she felt like an impostor, too? Knowing this is a thing that others feel will help make it just that: a thing, but not your thing. If that doubtful voice begins to creep into your head, repeat: “It’s not me, it’s the impostor syndrome talking.”
- #2. Unsubscribe from doubt. In his book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, describes two kinds of doubt: self-doubt, which causes you to freeze up, and idea doubt, which can motivate people to refine, test or experiment with a good idea. Try to turn self-doubt into idea doubt by telling yourself: It’s not that I’m bad, it’s that the first few drafts of any idea are always bad — and I’m just not there yet.
- #3. Decide to be confident. Literally make the choice to be confident. Raise your hand. Volunteer your expertise. When you start spiraling into self-doubt, force yourself to write down three things you've done well. (If three isn’t enough to ease your doubts, write three more.) And actually hand-write them. A 2014 study shows that people remember things better when they've written rather than typed them.
- #4. Remind yourself you’re good at what you do. I have a folder in my inbox called “fun/nice.” It’s full of praise I’ve received over the years, to remind myself of my value when I need a quick confidence boost. Jessica Kirkpatrick, a data scientist based in Berkeley, Calif., told me she employs something called the “rubber band trick.” She wears a rubber band around her wrist and snaps it every time she has an impostor thought. It’s the same premise as Pavlov’s dogs: This action sends feedback to your brain, which eventually stops the thoughts that trigger the action. “Change your thoughts, and the brain will follow,” she said.
It’s important to remember: Failure doesn’t make you a fraud. Even the best athletes screw up, the best lawyers lose cases, the best actors star in busts. Failing, losing and being wrong on occasion are all part of the job. Don’t let it define you. Learn from your mistakes and move forward and believe in your abilities.
About the Author
Jessica Bennett is gender editor at The New York Times and the author of “Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace,” from which this piece is adapted. This article was part of a series of guides for working women brought to you by The New York Times and Bumble Bizz, a professional networking app by Bumble. See the full series at nytimes.com/workingwomen.