Have you heard of Imposter Syndrome? It’s a term that is becoming ever more common as more and more of us open up about our anxieties in the work place.
The truth is, it is all too common to experience a hidden doubt in our minds, a doubt that questions whether we truly are good enough for our jobs. It may show up as critical thoughts that wonder how we even got the job in the first place or they tell us that it was just by luck that we were handed that promotion.
Imposter Syndrome can be defined as ‘a thought pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and they have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud’. It’s caused by a critical inner voice which tells us, “I’m in over my head and I’m going to get found out”. A chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraud that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of our success.
Imposter Syndrome is a confidence issue for a lot of people. In fact, it affects up to 70% of us. The most common victims? High achievers and perfectionists. Surprisingly it isn’t linked with lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem.
Individuals may think:
● I feel like a fake
● It’s all down to luck
● Success is no big deal
The 5 types of Impostor Syndrome
The Perfectionist sets unreasonably high goals. When he or she fails to reach it, they experience major self-doubt. Success is rarely satisfying because they think they could have done better. If this is you, you need to accept your work will never be 100% flawless. The sooner you can, the better off you’ll be.
The Super Woman/Man
Convinced they are frauds, they push themselves to work harder to measure up. But this is just a cover-up for their insecurities. Imposter workaholics are addicted to the validation that comes from working, not the work itself. Nurture your inner confidence that tells you you’re competent, and you’ll be able to ease of and measure how much work is reasonable.
The Natural Genius
As Natural Geniuses, these people believe that if they must work hard at something, they must be bad at it. They judge themselves on getting things right first time. To move past this, try seeing yourself as a work in progress, and realise that achieving great things involves life-long learning and skill building for everyone.
The Rugged Individualist
These people believe asking for help reveals that they are frauds. Realise it’s ok to be independent, but not to the extend that you refuse help just so you can prove your worth.
The Expert may feel they tricked their employer into hiring them and worry about being exposed. Realise it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. Mentoring a junior colleague is a good way to discover your inner expert. This helps heal fraudulent feelings and also benefits others.
What can you do to combat Imposter Syndrome?
Recognise imposter feelings when they arise
Awareness is the first step to change, so you need to monitor these thoughts. What are they and when do they arise?
Talk about your feelings
It’s better to talk that to hold in negative thoughts alone. You may find others feel like imposters, too.
Re-write your mental programming
Instead of thinking about how you are going to fail, ask yourself, “Is this a helpful thought?” If the answer is no, then ask, “what would be more helpful?”
Instead of thinking “I don’t deserve success”, or “They’re going to find me out”, remind yourself it’s normal to not know everything and that you will learn more as you progress.
Consider the context
Few people are 100% confident. When you feel you are out-of-your-depth, self-doubt can creep in. If you start thinking you are useless, reframe it as “just because I feel useless right now, does not mean I really am”.
Ask yourself, “What evidence do I have that I am an imposter? What evidence do I have that I am good at my job and deserve this opportunity?”
Look at failure as a learning opportunity
Identify the learnings and use them constructively. Early on in our lives we are often inadvertently programmed to see failure as something bad. Think about well-meaning parents, think about the propensity for school to put red marks all over the work you slaved so hard over… and we see this as a bad thing.
Instead try reframing failure. Try seeing it as the way we get feedback when we don’t achieve what we set out to, and that not hitting the mark is the way we learn. If we never experience failure, then how do we learn from it? Ask yourself, “What am I learning if I never fail or worse still… if I never admit I’m failing?”
Remember, before every great success there are often many failures. I challenge you to learn about people like Thomas Edison who failed many times before he made the world’s first practical long-lasting lightbulb. What about the Wright brothers and their attempts to fly?
Be kind to yourself
Remember, you are allowed to make small mistakes. Reward yourself for getting big things right.
Accept that you don’t have to do everything alone. Everyone needs help, and it’s ok to ask. A good talk can be the reality check you need. Talk to friends, co-workers or your boss. If you are not able to talk to them, then seek professional help. There are counsellors, therapists and coaches who are trained in various ways to help.
Think like a non-impostor
If you want to stop feeling like an impostor, then you have to stop thinking like an impostor and learn to think like a non-impostor. Non-impostors know they can’t be brilliant at everything, and they’re ok with that. You should be, too.
To help you work through challenges such as this, I have created an EDM series ‘Moving Forwards’. You’ll receive one email each week. Each one addresses a specific topic and gives you practical information and techniques you can use across the following week. Each email is designed to move you forward step by step. I’m sure you’ll find them helpful - and they’re yours free. Sign up here