Leaving my job led to leaving parties. These gatherings went hand in hand with speeches, toasts to skills and funny anecdotes. Confessions and revelations then started as the evening progressed. A heart to heart with a bright, capable and outwardly confident colleague who confessed how lost she really felt; comparing herself to others, who she viewed as totally in control. Another Manager revealed she waiting for someone to realise she didn’t quite know what she was doing. Like she was a fraud.
Sound familiar? I haven’t been recording your inner thoughts (if I could, that would be quite an invention).
Imposter Syndrome; heard of it?
Identified forty years ago, it is often found in “high achievers” who are convinced, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they are faking it. Success is down to luck or timing; they are wearing a mask of capability. These false beliefs lead to self-doubt, impact moods and even stop people achieving their full potential.
I will put money on you knowing at least one person that experiences this internal self-sabotage; I am relieved to see high profile role models such as Oscar Winner Kate Winslet, Award Winning Author Maya Angelou and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg speaking publically about feeling this way, despite all the evidence that they are at the top of their game!
Self-doubt creeps into the corners of my brain far too often than I would like. Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the years that help me and hope they can help you too.
1. Keep a brag book: Every time YOU FEEL you have been a success, not just when you have been told. Write it down and make sure you know what YOU have done to make it happen. Your qualifications, your experience, your good interpersonal skills; tangible evidence.
2. Ask for feedback and listen: Ask how colleagues and friends see you. What you are good at, how you are helping them do their job better or improving their life, just by being you!
3. Stretch yourself: Set yourself goals and make yourself accountable. Be it with a mentor at work or through a more formal external coach. Having a positive and challenging person to support you through this process (and to share you successes with) helps you stretch yourself in a safe way. Every goal you hit can also be added to your brag book (see point one!)
4. Be Authentic: One way to overcome fear it is to confront it. If more people, especially women, were honest about how they are feeling, people would realise that it is much more common that it is thought.
5. Flip the switch: Don’t bury these thoughts; acknowledge them then turn them on their head. Be kind to yourself; if a colleague was saying these things about themselves, how would you respond? Remember the effort, the time, the research, the skills and respond to the inner negative talk. Make it a multisensory experience; visual quotes, associate music to positive times.
Five simple steps to break the restrictions of this internal negative self-talk; don’t forget you are not alone!