If you’ve ever felt less than confident about your place in the world, you’re not alone. Feelings that you aren’t quite deserving of your success, or that you are only doing well because you have gotten lucky—plague successful people of all stripes, from all walks of life. According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, some 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives.
And unfortunately, these beliefs can be really self-sabotaging, leading to anxiety, doubt, and an inability to enjoy the positive things in your life.
So what to do with feelings of being slightly less-than-worthy? Thankfully, there are a range of useful tools that help people overcome these feelings and step into their full, confident selves.
Mindfulness is no longer just the paradigm of Buddhists or hippies. Used in everything from cancer treatment to addiction recovery and corporate development, mindfulness has serious wellness bona fides. Put simply, the practice involves just taking of your thoughts and observing them as they go by, without necessarily engaging with each one. Most of us have never paid attention like this, and it turns out it can be really freeing to step back from our thoughts instead of being steamrolled by each one.
When thoughts of unworthiness arise, we can simply pause. Maybe we can inquire: “Hmm. Is this true for me?” or “Oh hello, fear.” This often takes the teeth out of our emotions and gives us a calmer place to move forward from. Mindfulness is all about paying attention, and paying attention is one of the most transformative things we can do.
If we have any self-awareness about the self-doubting nature of our thoughts (which we will if we have tried mindfulness!), another tool can be reframing. This simply involves trying a new spin on old thought patterns. For example, if someone habitually thinks “I’m just a deadbeat. People will find out I’m faking it and not a real entrepreneur,” reframing is just trying on a more beneficial outlook. Perhaps something like “In the past, I’ve been unreliable at work, but I’ve changed and have been a valuable contributor to my work for some time now.” Sometimes the power of spotting the old story and telling ourselves a new one is all we need to shake off feelings of self-doubt.
Self-compassion is a potent tool for mental wellbeing in any number of circumstances. Backed up by clinical support, learning to think about ourselves in kinder, gentler ways can lower stress, reduce anxiety, and even help us be more confident. Similar to reframing, self-compassion requires us to tell a new story to ourselves. For example, if we think “I don’t know what I am doing at this job. I only got it because I got lucky, and soon they will find out I have no idea what I am doing,” – a self-compassionate counter-thought might be “I am being brave by trying something new. I can ask for help when I need it and know I am trying my best.” This kind of thinking takes the edge off by not requiring us to be perfect all the time, which is kryptonite for those with imposter syndrome. Even better, when we can show ourselves some compassion, we often have an easier time extending it to others, making the whole world a friendlier place.
Ask for Help
Seek out support—a tried and true remedy for whatever ails you. When struggling with feelings of unworthiness, getting some outside input can be a lifeline to sanity. Maybe a therapist is required to work through a deep-seated issue or maybe it is just a friend who can shed light on reality. Some people find it essential to seek out mentorship to learn positive mental health habits. Finding someone who is empathetic, who you feel safe with, and who you are willing to get real with can make the difference between a life of self-sabotage or happy usefulness.
Helping others is the unexpected gem of self-worth. Often, sharing our wisdom and experience with others can help illuminate our sense of self. It can remind us we do have something to offer and our experience is valuable. Be it teaching a class, mentoring others, or sharing your skills on social media, giving back can often offer a huge boost to self-confidence and wellness. Just make sure your giving comes from a real desire to help, not just a sneaky plan to boost your ego, and you’ll be all set.
While feelings of unworthiness and imposter syndrome can dog people for years, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many have overcome the deepest seeds of self-doubt and found a way to live with both humility and confidence. It’s a sweet balance that makes life all the more enjoyable!