I got lucky.
They’re just being nice.
I had A LOT of help.
I was at the right place at the right time.
They clearly have low standards.
They clearly made a mistake.
It was because of my connections.
How often do you say this to yourself? How often do you downplay or outright dismiss your accomplishments?
Many of us do it so often we don’t even realize we’re actually doing it. We don’t even realize we’re hurting ourselves in this way.
In the new book The Imposter Cure: How to Stop Feeling Like a Fraud and Escape the Mind-Trap of Imposter Syndrome, author and clinical psychologist Jessamy Hibberd shares various examples of how we can rewrite the above statements so they reflect reality. Because that’s the thing about the above self-talk: It’s not even true.
For instance, instead of telling yourself (or others) that you got lucky, according to Hibberd, you might say: “Luck doesn’t disqualify success; it is just one small part of it. It’s what you do next which determines whether it becomes a success or not.”
Instead of hyper-focusing on how much help you had, Hibberd writes, you might say: “Knowing what you’re doing doesn’t mean knowing everything; it means understanding some of it yourself and being prepared to find out the answers for the stuff you don’t.”
Before assuming that a job or program has low standards, Hibberd suggests asking yourself: Did I believe this before I applied? Who else got admitted or hired, and how do I view them?
Before assuming that a job or program made a mistake by accepting or hiring you, remind yourself of the truth: “Universities, courses, and jobs have rigorous interview and application procedures.”
Before assuming that you were in the right place at the right time, remind yourself of the truth: “You need to know when to act, see your advantage and capitalize on it. It’s easy to look at the time everything fell into place, but how many other times were there when it didn’t? Lots of effort goes into making sure timing works and everything falls into place.”
Depending on your history, it might be all-too natural to disregard what you’ve done. But when we diminish and dismiss our accomplishments, we diminish and dismiss ourselves.
So the next time you find yourself devaluing your abilities, skills, performance, or achievements, consider how you can reframe and revise your hurtful self-talk so it reflects the truth. And if you’re not sure what the truth is, consider what you’d say to a loved one or a child or your younger self. (What if someone else achieved what you achieved?) Consider different explanations. Expand your perspective.
This may not be easy, and it might feel awkward because you’re not used to praising your accomplishments, let alone acknowledging them. And you can barely take a compliment without shaking your head.
But practice can help. It might even help to list a few recent accomplishments, along with how you’ve been thinking about these accomplishments and how you’ve been talking about them with others. Then consider alternative explanations and statements.
Remind yourself that this isn’t fake flattery. It’s the truth.