How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Find Your True Calling
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern where someone doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of competence, those with imposter syndrome have an internalized feeling of inadequacy and believe they don’t deserve their success.
Some common feelings include:
- Feeling like a fraud or phonie
- Attributing success to luck rather than ability
- Fear of being exposed as an imposter
- Unable to internalize accomplishments
- Feeling undeserving of praise or recognition
- Fear of failure, criticism, or not meeting expectations
While imposter syndrome is not recognized as a mental disorder, it can significantly impact confidence, motivation, and overall well-being. It often affects high-achievers and those who are objectively successful, making them unable to internalize their accomplishments.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
There are a few key factors that can contribute to imposter syndrome:
Holding oneself to extremely high standards and being overly critical of mistakes can fuel feelings of inadequacy. Perfectionists tend to discount achievements and focus on flaws.
“Fixed” vs “Growth” Mindset
Those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and talents are inherent and static. They constantly need to prove their competence which breeds insecurity. A growth mindset sees abilities as developed through effort – this flexibility reduces pressure and fear of failure.
Patterns like black-and-white thinking (“I’m either a total success or a total failure”), magnifying negatives, and discounting positives skew self-perception. These thought patterns make it hard to accurately evaluate capabilities.
Societal marginalization, discrimination, lack of representation, stereotype threat, or childhood dynamics can contribute to self-doubt and feeling like an “outsider”.
Signs You May Have Imposter Syndrome
- You feel like a fraud or phonie in your field
- You minimize your accomplishments and abilities
- You attribute your success to luck or ease of task
- You fear you’ll be “found out” as not competent
- You feel you don’t deserve your success
- You obsess over recieving praise and validation
- Mistakes and failures profoundly impact your self-esteem
- You shy away from challenges to avoid failure
- You feel constantly on guard and stressed
- You have difficulty internalizing positive feedback
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Conquering imposter syndrome takes time, but these strategies can help:
1. Reframe Distorted Thinking Patterns
- Identify cognitive distortions like black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing, etc.
- Collect objective evidence that contradicts the distortions
- Actively reframe negative thoughts to be more balanced and realistic
2. Change Your Self-Talk
- Celebrate and acknowledge your wins – talk to yourself like you would a friend!
- Stop negative self-criticism – be encouraging and focus on growth
- Speak facts about your competence – keep record of achievements
- Affirm you belong – you have skills, talents, and experience
3. Take Small Risks and Challenge Yourself
- Step outside your comfort zone in contained, low-stakes ways
- List situations you avoid and intentionally approach them
- Celebrate small wins and build tolerance for uncertainty
4. Find Supportive Communities
- Share your struggles with those who empower and normalize
- Connect with people who have overcome imposter syndrome
- Avoid toxic environments rife with competition or intimidation
5. Build Your Confidence
- Take an inventory of your skills, talents, values and experience
- Recognize your expertise has great worth to others
- Objectively list achievements – let evidence drown out insecurity
- Develop self-compassion – treat yourself like you would a friend
Overcoming imposter syndrome is an ongoing process, but progress comes from challenging distortions, taking small risks, celebrating wins, and building self-compassion. Be patient with yourself!
Finding Your True Calling
Conquering imposter syndrome frees you to confidently pursue meaningful work aligned with your strengths and values – your “true calling”. Here are some tips:
Reflect on What Fuels You
- What activities energize and engage you? When do you lose track of time?
- What skills come naturally or you master quickly?
- What values motivate you? Service, creativity, autonomy?
Assess Your Strengths
- Take strengths assessments like VIA Character, Gallup CliftonStrengths
- Review past accomplishments and feedback – what strengths helped you succeed?
- Look for themes in the activities and roles you’ve enjoyed
Experiment and Explore
- Take on new challenges to build self-awareness
- Volunteer with organizations aligned to your values
- Talk to people in roles that interest you
Make a Change
- Start small by taking on new projects or responsibilities
- Make a career pivot utilizing transferable skills
- Work with a coach to create a career transformation plan
The path to your true calling begins by building self-confidence, getting to know yourself, and taking small steps to follow what energizes you. By leveraging your strengths and aligning work to your values, you can find deep fulfillment.