Have you heard of Imposter Syndrome? If you have never felt like you belong in any job, or you are always waiting for someone to find out you don’t really know what you are doing, you feel like a fake or a fraud … worse still you can’t take a compliment, you self-sabotage when anything is going good and you are always living in fear of being seen as a failure, then you my friend may just have imposter syndrome.
WHAT IS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
Imposter Syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
It involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. It isn’t a diagnosis or a medical problem but rather a pattern of thinking that can lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk and missed opportunities. It reflects the core belief that you are an inadequate, incompetent, and a failure — despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and successful.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE IMPOSTER SYNDROME
A couple of key indicators you may very well have imposter syndrome are:
• You will play down your success
• You will hold back from doing your job because you think you are a fraud
• Can’t accept accolades
• Lack self confidence
• Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
HOW DOES IMPOSTER SYNDROME AFFECT YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
· For starters it instils self-doubt and low self-esteem – people will reject praise, downplay achievements and allow others to take the acclaim.
· Impedes career growth – sufferers may not demand or even expect a promotion or a pay rise, or may simply not push themselves forward at work.
· Hampers leadership and management – sufferers will feel vulnerable and fear being exposed which makes taking tough and unpopular decisions harder and showing strong leadership less likely.
· Restricts innovation and risk taking – fearing failure inhibits creativity and inventiveness
· Affects mental health – creating stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation.
HOW CAN WE STOP FEELING LIKE AN IMPOSTER?
1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. So start communicating and talking about it.
2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
3. Accentuate the positive. The good news is being a perfectionist means you care deeply about the quality of your work. The key is to continue to strive for excellence when it matters most, but don’t persevere over routine tasks and forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. Don’t attach too much emotion to it.
4. Develop a healthy response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, ‘Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.’ Instead of beating yourself up for falling short, work out what you can learn and improve upon in the experience.
5. Develop a new script. Become consciously aware of the conversation going on in your head when you’re in a situation that triggers your Impostor feelings. What is your internal script saying? You are stupid, you can’t do that, who are you to do that … or thinking, ‘Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,’ tell yourself ‘Everyone who starts something new feels this way in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.’
6. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful new management pitch or resolving a difficult dispute. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will ease your stress.
7. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually approval seeking from others … pat yourself on the back, be your own cheerleader.
3. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering ‘winging it’ as proof of your flaws, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME IN BUSINESS
Impostor syndrome doesn’t just impact individuals It also impacts the teams and businesses they are part of. So, if you are in a business owner or in a leadership role, watch out for team members who might be feeling out of their depth. They may appear to be performing well on the outside but struggling inside.
1. Look for signs of loss of self-confidence and anxiety. They may be uncomfortable with praise and step back letting others take the acclaim. Or they may deflect it by attributing it to luck or the skills of others in the team.
2. They may also become self-deprecating and express greater uncertainty such as ‘I am not sure what I am doing here…’, ‘I found this difficult but I had a go….’ or ‘I’m not sure this is what you were looking for….’.
3. In addition, look out for a drop off in performance, emails being sent way before or after normal working hours, or an unusual delay in responding or making decisions caused by procrastination.
4. To help members of your team you suspect may be suffering from imposter syndrome, education and coaching are key. Studies suggest that simply finding out about impostor syndrome and knowing that others feel it too, helps significantly. So, be open, discuss it and build a team culture where it’s ok to be unsure, not always to know the answer and take appropriate risks.
5. Attribute success fairly; reward teamwork and creativity as well as hard work. Impostor syndrome drives a need for external validation. Lack of inclusion can make those feelings worse, so develop a strong inclusive team.
The annoying thing is Imposter Syndrome will always be lurking, when you are particularly uncomfortable it will be screaming at you. But now you’ve been introduced to your old foe, you don’t need to listen to the untruths it’s telling you anymore. So, keep flying by the seat of your pants and fake it till you make it.