Start by acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. By careful introspection, you can determine what makes you great at what you do, and what could use a bit more work. This might seem counterintuitive at first, since impostor syndrome will make you want to have no weaknesses. However, you will start noticing that your strengths and even your weaknesses have contributed to your success. Both your strengths and weaknesses are useful tools that drive you to have accomplishments. For example, you might be very good at memorizing information and not so good at abstract reasoning. You could use your memory capability to study and remember different scenarios where abstract reasoning is required, using a strength to overcome a perceived weakness. This will help you be more confident in your decision-making.
The previous point naturally brings us to this often overlooked concept: compassion. Nobody is perfect. We have our successes and our failures, our ups and downs. Some highly successful people might be naturally talented and therefore feel inadequate and disappointed when they fail. But there is nothing inherently wrong with failing, and it does not diminish your value as a person. To err is human, and we are all human. There is no need to be harsh on yourself, to demand from yourself more than necessary, or to punish yourself when you don’t overachieve. If a loved one came to you to discuss their perceived failures, would you dismiss them with a scolding and the idea that they weren’t good enough? Or would you use compassion and understanding to raise their spirits so they can get up and move forward?
Your loved ones deserve compassion, and so do you, especially from yourself.
Lower your standards
Now this is probably the last thing you feel like doing. You might think that lowering your standards is a slippery slope towards mediocrity. But it is not. It is simply another tool that you can use. Even if you want to give your all in every activity, you will need to carefully determine which things require more detailed work and which things require less effort.
A wise man once said “good enough is good enough”. It’s not lazy to do the job you set out to do satisfactorily without trying to strive for perfection, it’s simply efficient.
List your achievements
One time might have been a fluke. Two times might be a coincidence. However, at some point you have to start recognizing a pattern. If you feel like your achievements are not a product of your own hard work, then start by listing them. After that, go through each one and think of all the effort you put into each one. You’ll realize that some achievements have been attained easier than others. However, in all cases it was through your own determination and diligence that they were accomplished. Achieving something is a combination of hard work, attitude, and just a little bit of luck. Most of the work was done by you.
Get a second opinion
The saying goes that we are our own worst enemy. We will either be rather lenient or awfully harsh on ourselves. If you have impostor syndrome, you’re probably in the latter category. When it comes to ourselves, it can be difficult to think objectively. After all, the closer you are, the harder it is to grasp the bigger picture. A second opinion in this case can give you a different perspective from someone other than yourself. If you believe that asking your friends, family, or a mentor is too embarrassing or that they would try not to hurt your feelings, you can try telling your story to a therapist, who will respond to you objectively without possible conflict of interests.
Additionally, you can try reading books like Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff. If you are more research-oriented, you can start with this paper by Queena Hoang on the impostor phenomenon.
The good news is that it can be managed. Don’t let those feelings fester inside you, but rather confront them head-on. With practice, you will learn to deal with your impostor syndrome. You worked hard for your accomplishments, so enjoy them and be proud of yourself.