Limiting the scope of limiting beliefs and minimising the impact of so-called imposter syndrome
Over the past few years more and more of us have become open to admitting that we may experience so-called imposter syndrome from time to time. The phenomenon, whereby individuals doubt their accomplishments and may have a persistent fear of being perceived to be frauds, can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or professional background. It is often associated with high-achievers and those who experience a perfectionist streak.
So-called imposter syndrome is not a recognised mental disorder, yet it can have a significant impact on one's mental health and career development.
An important factor which typically contributes to so-called imposter syndrome is limiting beliefs. These self-defeating thoughts and approaches, often formed from past experiences, cultural influences, or societal expectations, can hold us back from reaching our full potential.
Limiting beliefs can fuel so-called imposter syndrome by creating a constant sense of self-doubt and inadequacy. Individuals may feel like they are not qualified for their job or role, even if they have the necessary skills and experience. They may attribute their successes to luck or external factors, rather than acknowledging their own hard work and dedication.
Limiting beliefs can also lead to a fear of failure with a knock-on effect in the form of an avoidance of risk-taking or not pursuing new opportunities, out of a concern that the effort might result in a misfire.
Overcoming so-called imposter syndrome requires us to tackle these limiting beliefs head-on. This can be a challenging process, as limiting beliefs may be deeply ingrained and reinforced over time. It’s nevertheless essential to recognise that these beliefs are not necessarily based on fact. They are more likely to be products of stories we have told ourselves, on the basis of an incomplete picture.
One strategy for challenging limiting beliefs is to identify and reframe negative self-talk. This involves examining the belief, recalling where and how it first arose, testing whether any assumptions we have made about the circumstances or perceived fact are actually correct and replacing incomplete stories with positive information we know to be true. For example, instead of thinking "I am not qualified for this job," one can reframe their thinking as "I have the necessary skills and experience to succeed in this role."
Another aspect worth bearing in mind is that we often don’t notice some of the obvious first symptoms of so-called impostor syndrome. These tend to occur regularly in our day-to-day lives and by taking note of them and recognising them for what they are, it may become easier to intercept so-called imposter syndrome before it takes hold. It’s about short-circuiting the instinct of letting any such “symptoms” have a detrimental impact.
Everyone experiences setbacks and failures and these aspects are a natural part of our learning process. Adopting a growth mindset, by acknowledging that skills and abilities can be developed and improved over time, significantly supports individuals in approaching challenges with a sense of optimism and confidence, rather than fear and self-doubt.
By treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, we can limit the scope of our limiting beliefs and minimise the impact of so-called imposter syndrome.