Imposter Syndrome... I'm a fraud and everyone is about to find out.

I'm doing something really scary because it needs to be said. Truth... I have three degrees (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate), over 20 years of experience in education, a very successful career, a heart that calls me to help women kick ass on their doctoral dissertations so they can move on with their lives, and some days I’m certain it’s only a matter of time before everyone finds out I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. 
 
I know I am not alone. I work with high-performing female doc students who blow my mind with how brilliant and articulate they are. And yet, we feel that soon enough we will be exposed as frauds.
 
 
I'm a fraud and everyone is about to find out.
 
Here it comes again... that crippling feeling of chronic self-doubt. It stops us in our tracks, paralyzes our momentum and motivation, and prevents us from making progress in our dissertation. Imposter Syndrome is a totally normal part of experiencing success, and today I'm going to give you 5 strategies to help you through it. 
  
 
If you do experience Imposter Syndrome, you are in great company. Some of the most successful people in history have suffered from a secret fear that they are frauds. “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people,” John Steinbeck wrote in his diary in 1938. ”I always feel like something of an impostor. I don’t know what I’m doing,” Maya Angelou shared, “I’ve written 11 books, but each time I think, uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Maya effing Angelou experiences it! Would you believe Michelle Obama, at a recent publicity event promoting her book “Becoming”, she told a group of students at an all-girls school in north London that she still occasionally experiences Imposter Syndrome? She graduated from Princeton University, which is currently ranked number one in the US News best colleges annual list! And she's Michelle Obama! Truth is, Imposter Syndrome is common in high-performing women. 
 
Imposter Syndrome is that idea that you have only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications. It is self-perceived intellectual fraudulence... that voice in the back of your mind whispering that eventually, someone is going to find out that you are a fraud. It was first identified by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzette Imes (1985). They found that women were uniquely affected by imposter syndrome, but since then, research has expanded to reveal that men and women both experience Imposter Syndrome. 
 
Links between impostor syndrome and its consequence, psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression have been well established. If imposter syndrome is prolonged without acknowledgment, can lead to clinical levels of depression and anxiety.  
 
The good news though, is that most impostors are able to fulfill their academic or work requirements despite their self-perceived fraudulence. Here are 5 strategies to use when you feel that nasty little inner mean-girl telling you that you are a fraud rearing her ugly face again.
 
  1. Call Imposter Syndrome out on the carpet. Recognize that those voices in your mind are just a classic example of imposter syndrome creeping up again. Acknowledge the thoughts and put them into perspective. Invite those thoughts in, remind yourself why they are here and what it means. Expose it, conceptualize it, and call it what it is. Acknowledging that it is just Imposter Syndrome sneaking up again and calling it what it is can help you conceptualize what is going on and stop it in its tracks.
  2. Tell someone you trust. High achievers typically don’t like to talk about Imposter Syndrome. Share the feelings with your trusted friends, or your dissertation coach. Reach out to someone who you are okay with feeling a little vulnerable with. Marie Forleo recommends saying to the person you trust something like, “I feel like I suck right now... can you tell me why I don’t?”  Coaches who have more experience and strategies for helping clients through Imposter Syndrome can reassure you that your feelings are normal. Many of my clients struggle with Imposter Syndrome and we work through reframing those thoughts and proving them wrong together. 
  3. Be okay with “good enough”. Doctoral students have very high expectations for yourselves and it is easy to get trapped in Perfectionism Prison. We don’t take action because if it isn’t perfect, flawless, then it isn't worth anything. You can’t measure up to an impossible expectation. Take action, admit that perfectionism is not possible, recognize unrealistic expectations, and reframe your thoughts from “perfection” to “acceptable”. 
  4. Start a “Snaps” folder. I recommend keeping a running list of compliments handy. Did your chair really like a perspective that you brought to the table? Did you get great feedback from one of your professors on your writing style or an argument you articulated in a paper? Every time someone provides you with nice feedback, take a screenshot and file it in the Snaps folder. 
  5. Create a “Mantra”... a saying that when you look into the mirror, you say with confidence and that can punch Imposter Syndrome in the face. Mindy Kaling uses the phrase “Why the F not me?” Choose a simple line that celebrates your awesomeness, your badassery, and repeat it aloud in the mirror until that nasty little voice inside your head shuts up. “You got this, Amalie”, “You are a badass, girl!” are some of the repeating mantras that I use when that sneaky little bitch creeps into my head.   
If you want to go deeper in self-reflection and imposter syndrome, Valerie Young in her book "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women" thoroughly explains the personal and societal reasons for the Impostor Syndrome, and then shares perspective on the different ways Impostor Syndrome shows up in our thoughts and behaviors. The book has changed my life for the better and if I could give it to every woman I know, I would.
 
So... what’s YOUR mantra? What strategies do YOU use to keep that inner mean girl quiet? Share below! 
 
Keep going! You've got this!
 
BIG LOVE,
 
**Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases which I then use to support my journal and Sharpie addiction.**

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