How many times have you heard yourself say “I’m just winging it”, “I’m just lucky” or, “I’m going to be found out”. Does the idea that you are not good enough echo around your head like the latest pop earworm? Do you have more certificates than wall space; yet still worry that you are not qualified enough to do your job? If you say “Yes” to at least one, then you probably have Imposter Syndrome.
Named in 1978, it is usually found in high achievers. So great news! If you have Imposter Syndrome you are likely to be actually VERY GOOD at what you do. Whilst you may feel like you are never worthy, and your success is down to good timing and luck, in fact, you keep exceptionally good company. Oscar Winner Kate Winslet, Award Winning Author Maya Angelou and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg all speak publically about how their self-doubt can cripple, even though all the external evidence points to them being top of their game.
“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: “I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” Tina Fey
“There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.” Sheryl Sandberg
“You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, “I made it!” You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other.” Amy Poehler
“I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Maya Angelou
The common thread is not actually believing in themselves. Not having the confidence that their success comes from their talent, skills and hard work. Instead, they are lucky, have good timing, or they have somehow convinced others that they are much more capable and intelligent than they actually are.
Most people feel imposter syndrome
Years and years of research, starting with Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes’s initial classification, has found that most people, and all genders, experience Imposter Syndrome. In fact, they say it may be better to describe it as “Imposter Experience”; as for some it peaks during particular times or situations. Put simply, feeling like an imposter is part and parcel of being a success.
However, there are traits and behaviours are most common with these high achievers, which, if not managed, can lead to a negative impact on your motivation, well-being and general work-life balance.
How can you overcome imposter syndrome?
It is believed there are five main ways that Imposter Syndrome “shows up”. Whilst you don’t need to experience all of these, if you recognise more than half, there is a good chance that you have Imposter Syndrome.
Here are my top tips on how to manage those pesky self-limiting doubts!
Are you a perfectionist?
Do you think things have to be flawless before they are finished? Do you criticise everything you do; to a point where you procrastinate rather than getting things done?
If so, consider this. Nothing is ever finished. I’ve heard even technological giant Google works at beta (in that they are always working on improving things)
How would it feel to identify the three most important things you need within your work and then do them? Nothing more. I bet the world won’t fall apart!
Do you overwork?
If you are at the risk of burn out, missing events with friends and family, or feeling like you have no energy for anything else at the end of the day? Are you working above and beyond because of your perfectionism nature?
Spend a week making plans that can’t be cancelled and avoided which means you have to finish work. Double points if taps into the need for self-care.
Do you undermine your achievements?
Do you find it hard to take compliments or do you belittle your involvement in work? Find yourself saying “I didn’t really do anything”. Do you find it hard to share your latest promotion, or achievement?
You need to OWN what you do well. Even if you find it hard to share your achievements with the world, start by sharing them with yourself. At the end of each day, jot down all the amazing things that you have done. Step away, and view yourself through the eyes of someone else. What would they say about you?
Are you afraid of failure?
This is one that is a real blinder and can cripple personal and professional progression. When you are so anxious about other people viewing your negatively, you don’t do anything at all. Then you definitely can’t fail!
Star with taking some time to uncover what this fear actually is. Is it failure or rejection (which are very closely linked).
Think about the last time you felt a real success. What was it? How did YOU make this happen? How can you replicate it?
Something that is even more powerful is to consider what is the worst that could happen? How realistic is that fear of failure?
You know the drill. Someone says something wonderful about you or your work and you immediately minimise it. If you find “it was nothing” about to fall from your lips, STOP. I find that people give praise where praise is due.
So, next time you feel like you need to brush away a genuine compliment, simply say “Thank you”. You deserve it!
How many of you were nodding along in agreement? Once you recognise that Imposter Syndrome is an experience, not a definition of who you are, it becomes easier to observe it and then find ways to overcome it. Share how you feel with others, you will be surprised how others will view you. I know I was when it happened to me!
Join in with the confidence conversation over at The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox on Facebook.