Have you ever felt like you’re punching above your weight?  Or out of your depth?  Or faking it until you make it?  If so, it’s possible you have experienced imposter syndrome?  In this blog, I explore how it can arise and, more importantly, what you can do about it

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon, typically characterised by feelings of inadequacy and fear of being found out.  It often occurs in the workplace, particularly if someone has moved into a job role that they don’t feel qualified to do, and it is more likely to affect higher achievers who find it difficult to acknowledge their own accomplishments.  However, it can also occur in an unsupportive workplace culture where biases, exclusionism, marginalisation and microaggressive behaviours are allowed to thrive.

How do you know if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome?

It’s perfectly normal to have elements of self-doubt or to lack confidence, but when those feelings are extensive and persistent, then it could be imposter syndrome.  Other indications include:

  • Feeling you don’t deserve your success or that it’s down to pure luck rather than skills and abilities.
  • Genuine fear that you will be found out and exposed as a fraud.
  • Perfectionist tendencies that lead you to set overly high goals and then feel shame and disappointment when you can’t reach them.
  • Avoiding opportunities so that you can’t fail.
  • Going to extreme lengths to correct relatively minor mistakes.
  • Downplaying or shrugging off your successes.
  • Constantly overworking yourself in an effort to prove your worth.
  • Pervasive self-doubt that transcends specific situations.

Imposter syndrome can arise due to personality traits or family background, or in situations where support is low and identifiable role models are lacking.  People who are easily upset or prone to anxiety are more likely to develop imposter syndrome, as is anyone driven by perfectionism or who has low self-esteem.  When it comes to upbringing, parents who are controlling or overprotective are more likely to raise children who will be at risk of imposter syndrome as they get older.  Placing too much emphasis on achievement, or being inconsistent with either praise or criticism presents similar risks.  If you feel different from your peers or you don’t see anyone “like you” being successful, then this can also lead to feelings of imposterism.  (I think I might have made that word up but you know what I mean!)

What can you do about it?

So with all that in mind, what can you do?  Firstly, there’s no “one size fits all” approach.  A lot will depend on the cause of your imposter syndrome and the way it’s showing up in your life.  But here are some strategies that may help.

 

  1. Question negative thoughts. Ask yourself if the thought is helpful or true.  Thoughts are not facts and you are not your thoughts.  Develop a non-judgemental awareness of your thoughts through the practice of mindfulness techniques.

 

  1. Upgrade your beliefs. Replace your limiting beliefs with more empowering ones: you are good enough, you do deserve it, mistakes are not the end of the world, failure is just another word for feedback, nothing ventured nothing gained.

 

  1. Celebrate your successes. Make a habit of noticing and embracing your achievements rather than dismissing them as flukes.  Record all your successes, qualifications, skills and accomplishments in a little notebook and re-read it…often.  If you think an achievement is down to external factors, identify the actions you took that led to the successful outcome, as it’s highly unlikely that it just came out of the blue.

 

  1. Share your concerns. Don’t gloss over your feelings with an air of pretence.  Instead, talk to someone you trust who can be objective and who can help you challenge your negative thinking.

 

  1. Get comfortable with uncertainty. No-one can be expected to know everything.  Learn to say you don’t know but you’ll find out.  Make some decisions without having all the facts.  Have the courage to ask for help.

 

  1. Journal your experiences. In situations where you felt a strong sense of imposter syndrome, explore what happened and your thoughts and feelings at the time, then apply a more rational interpretation of the event.

 

  1. Know your strengths and your transferable skills and recognise how these can be applied across other areas of your life.

 

  1. Develop a stronger internal locus of control. Know that it’s your actions, choices and decisions that produce your outcomes, including your successes.  You are in the driving seat of your life, no-one else.

 

  1. Practise being imperfect. Learn to settle for “good enough” and allow yourself (and others) off the hook a little.

 

  1. Keep learning. Whether it’s an unfamiliar task, a different way of doing something or a new hobby, learning reminds us that we don’t need to be perfect, that it’s OK to fail, and that we all have room for growth.

 

  1. Accept the compliment. Instead of brushing off praise, simply say “thank you”.

 

  1. Check your comparisons. Are you comparing like with like?  We often over-inflate the achievements of others, or only compare ourselves to those we think are better than us.  Be realistic in your comparisons or, better still, stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own growth and improvement.

 

Conclusion

Imposter syndrome can be a significant barrier to success and happiness, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to overcome it.  Therapists, counsellors and coaches are all trained to deal with imposter syndrome in its various guises.

My approach involves encouraging you to explore your feelings, recognise your worth, embrace your accomplishments and challenge unhelpful thinking.  Using NLP, I help you to build greater resilience and reprogram your beliefs.  If you would like to break free from the grip of imposter syndrome and thrive in both your personal and your professional life, please book a free call.

 

As a Personal Excellence Coach, I believe everyone has the power to achieve greatness, and every business has the right to employ great people!

Every day is a chance to grow, to learn and to be better than yesterday.