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12 Tips for Managing Your Imposter Syndrome

As a solo founder and indie creator I can oftentimes find myself "stuck in my own head", sotospeak — I'm sure more than a few of you know what that's like!

Sometimes these voices are more positive in nature and they give me just enough emotional lift to get me through the day without any serious hits to my mental health — I count these days as precious, rare even.

But, if I'm to be honest, a good chunk of the week isn't like that and I can find myself struggling to complete even the most basic of tasks; a negative, self-defeating voice can sneak in, seemingly without effort, and rob me of precious hours of productivity.

It's insidious! This sentiment can be quickly activated whenever I peruse Twitter or even when I read posts here in Indie Hackers about how others are "killing it" and experiencing "wins" seemingly every day.

Now, a good chunk of this is my own issues and struggles with anxiety, depression, and insecurity while others have given it a more formalized name: Imposter Syndrome.

For the latter, I recently stumbled on a tweetstorm via Dr. Emily Anhalt who gave some good advice on how to handle IS — I meditated on this for a few weeks now and I wanted to share it here too:

Imposter Syndrome is believing that you are not intelligent or capable despite evidence of high achievement. There is a feeling of phoniness and a fear of being found out or exposed as a fraud.

Sound familiar?

12 tips for working through Imposter Syndrome:

🤔 — Remember that you’re in good company.

Most people with competence have some Imposter Syndrome, because they know how much they don’t know. It's the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect.


Image via @jessicahagy

🗣 — Talk about it.

Putting private thoughts into words changes how those thoughts exist in our mind and changes our relationship to those thoughts.

Talk to your therapist, loved ones, and trusted colleagues about your worries and let them reflect a different reality to you.

🕵🏻‍♂️ — Seek understanding.

Imposter Syndrome presents itself differently in each of us. Examine your own particular breed of it - when do you feel it most (when you’re praised, with your male boss, when speaking publicly, etc.)?

This will help you build shock absorbers around it.

👥 — Avoid comparisons.

Don’t compare your behind-the- scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel (in other words, people’s social medias are not reflective of their true struggles).

Allow your accomplishments to stand on their own.

💩 — Stop “shoulding” all over yourself.

“I should be better, I should be more successful, I should be as smart as so and so...” Doing this puts you into a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset.

“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”

🗂 — Keep a self-esteem file.

We tend to ruminate on negative feedback and push positive feedback aside.

Hold onto the nice things people say about you. When you’re feeling like an imposter, look through it to remind yourself that you have made a difference in people’s lives.

🤷🏻‍♂️ — Get comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

Not knowing everything is not the same as being an imposter. Neither is making mistakes or being wrong. Rather than pretending to know something you don’t, own it. Then learn it.

💕 — Focus on providing value.

The fastest way to get over feeling like a fraud is to genuinely help someone else. Being helpful and caring combats Imposter Syndrome because it refocuses your attention on being loving toward others instead of critical of yourself.

🎁 — Practice accepting compliments.

When someone pays us a compliment we usually reply with why they’re wrong. Or, we throw a compliment right back.

A compliment is a gift, and should be accepted properly before moving on.

🙅🏻‍♂️ — Don’t personalize professional criticism.

“That iteration was inadequate” is not the same as “you are inadequate.”

Our work is our life in so many ways. But the two overlap, they are not one and the same. Find a sense of agency and joy outside of your work and invest in it.

💳 — Give people some credit.

By thinking you’re fooling everyone around you, you’re assuming that people are easily fooled.

Is it really more likely that you’re bad at what you do but good at tricking people, than it is that you were hired for good reason?

(The answer is no)

💠 — Fake it ‘till you make it.

The things we tell ourselves become our reality. Sometimes, we have to say to ourself: I am good, I am worthy, I am valuable - even when we don’t feel it. Over time, it will get harder to deny, and easier to believe.

You got this! 🙌🏻

  1. 2

    Great tips John!

    I often wonder how much further along I'd be in life if I had the sort of blind confidence that many are born with. 🤣

    On the other hand, Imposter Syndrome forces a mastery of whatever you’re pursuing and you’ll work twice as hard as you would otherwise. Personally, this lingering feeling of "being a fraud" pushed me towards learning more and sacrificing time that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

    I'd love to know more about the origins of imposter syndrome. ie. Why some people are born with blind confidence while others tend to feel like a fake regardless of position or accomplishments.

    Nature? Nurture? Correlated to intelligence?

    1. 1

      there's quite a bit of (growing) material online... but, i'm with you... this is a bit of a new-ish area for me.

      i wonder if it develops early or later in life...

  2. 2

    This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

    1. 2

      mm. here for you friend!

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