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Beating Imposter Syndrome

“Hello! My Name is Phoummala and I have re-occurring imposter syndrome. I struggle with this frequently and it’s a battle that I know I am not alone in.”

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Imposter syndrome can occur repeatedly. It can affect anyone and does not discriminate.  The smart successful “rock stars” in your industry to the everyday employee, that feeling of being a fraud and someday someone is going to find that you don’t know anything: it lives in more people’s heads more than you realize. YES, it’s that ugly voice in your head telling you that don’t deserve that promotion or that you can’t do something because everybody is way smarter than you. If you’ve experienced that voice, then you at some point have had imposter syndrome. This blog post is not about curing imposter syndrome, because honestly as humans I do not think we can, but we can overcome it when that negative voice in our head pops up again. There has been a lot of research on why imposter syndrome happens, and experts point to various reasons ranging from more intense competition in the workplace, increasing professional success, to low self-esteem and other contributing background factors. I can list off all the research gone into this, but at the end of the day we know it happens and we need to beat it to continue to be successful in our lives.

Beating Imposter Syndrome

I am not a healthcare professional. These are simply suggestions from what I have used to beat my imposter syndrome. If you are currently suffering from this and it is severely affecting your life, such as depression, I strongly recommend speaking to someone in the medical field.
  1. Acknowledgement - The first step to overcoming anything is to acknowledge it, like overcoming addictions and other conditions we need to acknowledge that these thoughts exist. Once you’ve done this, you can tell that ugly voice it needs to go away so you can take control of your own self-power.
  2. Talk – Now that you’ve acknowledged it, talk about it. Find someone that you can trust and talk about your feelings. Yes, we can talk about feelings in IT. Talking to someone can release so much stress and pressure. The key here is to talk to someone that is in within your support circle and not someone that is going to talk negative. We want positive thoughts here!
  3. Reaffirm – When my imposter syndrome kicks in, I tell myself all the good things I’ve done and list off successes. Go through your accomplishments and celebrate each one because you wouldn’t have gotten those if you didn’t do something great. Another tip is to record your successes somewhere, perhaps a journal or notebook in your desk, and each time you start to feel bad, pull out that list and read out the accomplishments.
  4. Strike a Pose – Yes, you read that correctly, strike a pose--a power pose, that is. Power poses can help gain your self-power and help you feel more powerful. Yes, there is such a thing as power poses. Thanks to my friend Jeramiah that introduced me to this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. Amy is a Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist, basically an expert in her area—and she has experienced imposter syndrome herself! Amy talks about how our body language affects how we see ourselves and how others see us. With simple changes in our posture and body language, you can start to feel confident and powerful. Sitting straight and upright, no slouching, and doing the Wonder Woman pose all help us feel more powerful. To find out more about power poses, check out her Ted Talk .
  5. Fake it – There are so many variations of the saying “Fake it …” but this does work. You can trick yourself into thinking you can do it until you become it. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk goes into deep discussion about this and she believes that it’s possible to fake feelings and gain that power back until we truly feel more powerful. “Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. Fake it ‘til you become it.” Her Ted Talk is amazing and I highly recommend it to everyone.

We are Humans

I cannot stress enough that we are humans and we cannot be expected to know everything. It’s just not possible. It’s also okay to feel what you feel. Without emotions, we aren’t living a real life and that’s what makes us humans so unique.  So, when you start to hear that ugly voice telling yourself that you suck or that you’re a fraud, tell yourself, “It’s okay” that I felt this way and I won’t let it continue because I belong here.  Believe in yourself!  
Phoummala Schmitt
Phoummala Schmitt is an IT professional with a broad range of experience that focuses on Microsoft software, VMware, and enterprise storage. Phoummala has extensive experience…
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