manage imposter syndrome

The vast majority (if not everybody) has experienced that creeping feeling of dread that you are going to be ‘found out’. The people you work with are going to discover that you are nowhere near as good as they think you are.

Yes, I’m talking about good old imposter syndrome.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines imposter syndrome as

“Persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success”

In the real world, this looks like:

  • Believing that others have an inflated view of your skills and that you’ve got where you are by fooling other people. For example, if you successfully complete a project and your manager is praising and congratulating you, they might even be discussing your next role. Meanwhile, you are thinking that the success of the project was down to luck and there’s no way you could pull it off again!
  • Having an intense fear of being found out. This is particularly common when you start a new job or have been promoted. You ask yourself, at what point will they discover that you don’t have the skills or experience to do the job. You are just waiting for somebody to appear and say it’s all been a big mistake.
  • Attributing success to factors outside of your own talents. You may say things like “we were lucky things went so smoothly” or “it’s all down to the team” or “it was really X that did all of the hard work” rather than owning your part in the success.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s important to know that you are NOT alone.

According to a survey by Clare Josa, author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome:

“62% of people are struggling with Imposter Syndrome daily or regularly – enough for it to have a measurable impact on their performance and their health.

62% is 2/3s of the working population. The next time you are sitting in the office or a Teams call, look around and appreciate, that 2/3s of the people around you will struggle with imposter syndrome at some point that week.

So, what can you do to manage these feelings of being an imposter?

As ever, I would love to wave a magic wand and make these feelings disappear overnight. Sadly, I can’t.

It takes work to unpick the beliefs that you hold about yourself, most of these beliefs will have been established in childhood and are deep rooted.

However, there are some immediate practical steps that you can take to help you manage and control your imposter syndrome.

  1. Understand that imposter syndrome is a feeling rather than a permanent state. The word “syndrome” implies a chronic illness and something that you need to live with forever. This is not the case. Those feelings of being an imposter are just that, a feeling. And we can choose at any time to change how we feel.
  2. Admit to yourself that you are experiencing those feelings. Notice and recognise exactly how those feelings of being an imposter present themselves. Do you feel nervous in the pit of your stomach? Do you feel reluctant to speak up? Do you allow others to take control of conversations? Do you speak louder to cover up the fact you are experiencing those feelings of being an imposter?
  3. Talk to others about what you are experiencing. It’s important that we normalise the feelings of being an imposter. Remember the stats. If 2/3s of people experience that feeling of being an imposter on a regular basis then you are most definitely not alone. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking about how you feel can help you to get a sense of perspective.
  4. Remind yourself of your capabilities. It’s important to remember that you can’t experience imposter syndrome if you have not achieved success. You may find it helpful to create a log of all your achievements and successes along with positive feedback from others so that in your more difficult moments you can go back and reflect on it.
  5. Get comfortable with discomfort. This is not easy, however, you are human and at some point you will make mistakes. If you acknowledge that you are a flawed human then there is nothing for people to ‘find out’. You know that you are not perfect and that’s OK.

If you would like an impartial conversation about how you can manage imposter syndrome, then feel free to book in my diary to talk about Career Coaching – I’d love to help you – here is a link to my diary.

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