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How To Live Without Fear: 7 Books That’ll Kill Your Impostor Syndrome


We’ve all done it—walked into a room, sat down for a meeting, shook hands with the boss, and thought to ourselves “What the hell am I doing here?”

Impostor syndrome is that fun emotional cocktail of self-doubt, disbelief, and fear that disproportionately affects almost anyone in the workplace who isn’t a middle-class white guy—but even they can get it, too. Essentially, it means you feel like you’re going to be exposed as a “fake” even though your skills and work credits signify otherwise.

This kind of intensive and anxious self-doubt can come from a lot of places: internal insecurities, asshole coworkers, or a slew of systematic messages you’ve been internalizing from society your whole life.

Regardless of where it’s coming from, sometimes the best solution to any problem is a good book. Here are a few for killing your impostor syndrome and getting the best bread you deserve from your hustle:

1. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Rhimes is the brilliant mind behind massively popular tv shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal—the shows that everyone in your co-working space is always talking about. Obviously, juggling fame and success with family and personal life isn’t easy, and Rhimes experienced intense fear and panic around her work. That was, until she learned to start saying “yes” to things and challenging her own anxieties. Year of Yes isn’t a direct guide about impostor syndrome so much as it’s about learning to be brave and give no f*cks—something we could all do a little more of, honestly.

2. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

One key to conquering impostor syndrome is replacing that voice in your head screaming, “You don’t belong” with better, positive thoughts. Strayed is the no-longer-anonymous writer at the popular Dear Sugar advice column and author of bestselling memoir Wild. Whether or not the advice is helpful at all, hearing other people’s questions thrown into the universe can be a soothing tid bit to hold onto during a tumultuous week. A word of caution: reading too many advice columns in a row can make anyone feel exhausted—take Tiny Beautiful Things in pieces.  

3. Overcoming Impostor Syndrome by Elizabeth Harrin

This is the first true actionable guide on our list, filled with explanations and step-by-step breakdowns of what you can do in your own life to combat impostor syndrome. Harrin really focuses on breaking up relatable narrative with strategies and exercises you can use to soothe insecurities in the workplace. The best part about her book, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, may be that she doesn’t claim to be an expert—simply someone who’s struggled like you have and tried a few things that worked.

4. Fear of Winning by Michael J. Bader

Some truly ambitious and impassioned individuals have suffered from impostor syndrome over the decades—sometimes with great consequences to the movements they’re leading. Dr. Bader looks at impostor syndrome with a clinical and psychological eye in his book, Fear of Winning, before providing an 8-step plan for overcoming it.  This could be the book for you if you like to understand all sides of an issue from a less personal view point before trying to work through it yourself.

5. Educated by Tara Westover

Westover’s best-selling memoir, Educated, tells the story of her leap from home-schooled religious homesteader to Oxford-educated PhD with poignancy and heart. Every step of the way Westover describes feeling like she doesn’t fit, like her background will expose her, like she’ll get stuck—all tenements of impostor syndrome. Sometimes you need to see your emotions mirrored in a work with a successful ending for a little inspiration.

6. Own Your Brilliance by Michelle Gomez

Gomez is a professional mentor and coach specializing in working with members of the “latinx community. Her book has been described as “Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In meets Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection”–a helluva combo if there was one. And the best part is she’ll send you a copy of Own Your Brilliance for free if you join her mailing list.  

7. Misfit by Andreas Souvaliotis

If you feel like you’re out of step, imagine being a gay man on the autism spectrum—before either of those things were really understood and discussed. Then immigrate away from home to a new country. Misfit tells the story of Andreas Souvaliotis taking all of the things that made him “strange” and using them to create his own success. Souvaliotis is the founder of Green Rewards, the first ever eco rewards program, as well as a classically trained musician and avid cyclist (it seems all the most ambitious people are). His memoir can inspire, entertain, and guide all in one fell swoop.

When Mel Burke isn't singing 80's love songs to her dog, she writes about books, food, dating, travel, and the constantly weird adventure that is living in California. Find her everywhere online @melburkewrites.

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