Updated August 2020 – originally published August 2019
What is it?
We all experience a feeling of inadequacy regarding our self-worth and whether we are qualified enough to achieve something, especially when we are pushed outside our comfort zone, we have heightened emotions or not feeling comfortable about a situation.
For some of us, this can be a reoccurring feeling despite repeated external evidence of competence.
This fear or feeling is called Impostor Syndrome (IS), it was ‘coined’ in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. IS, is a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud or fake with an inability to internalise our accomplishments and achievements.
What about me?
I had these feelings, too, every time I presented to my senior manager colleagues. Despite being the subject matter expert, with more relevant experience and knowledge, I felt unqualified, small, and unsure of my subject matter knowledge because of their experience, albeit in a very different part of the sector. At no stage did any of my colleagues indicate my knowledge was not good enough, but I still thought I needed to work harder, faster, more hours and prove myself. Reflecting back now, I know that I had very good knowledge, managed my team, myself and my work to a very high standard and I was always able to do the right thing, take the right action when it was needed, where others did not.
I am not the only one who struggled and still sometimes struggles with IS. All over the world normal people like you and me, superstars, celebrities, and many more have experienced IS. There are many ‘high’ achievers who often doubt themselves, believe they are not worthy of recognition they may receive. While at the same time there are a few people who we may be able to ‘name’ who have an over inflated opinion of themselves, the likelihood is we can all name one or two. So how do we find a ‘happy medium’ avoid the arrogance that comes with an over inflated ego, and lessen the impact that IS may have on us?
IS does not only affect women, but many more women recognise it. IS can affect us all. Here are some tips that have helped me with IS over the last 20 years.
#7 tips to help you with the negative impact of Impostor Syndrome
- Recognise the feelings: awareness is key to bringing the change in the way you think and act. When you know and say what it is, you open up the possibilities of handling it.
- Share it: share your concerns, speak to your mentor, coach or trusted colleague who have effectively conquered it.
- Review your perception: it is ok to be wrong, fail or not know everything. Just because you do not know something does not mean you are a fake or not-deserving. Remind yourself that as you progress you will learn more. High performing teams sometimes lose, miss the goal, targets, or achievement. Ask yourself ‘what is the worst that can happen’. This will help mitigate the fear. Re-frame the ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. The fact you will be trying, makes your effort admirable, and not a fake.
- Affirm and continue to re-affirm your self-worth: do not dismiss compliments by attributing your success to external factors. Own it! When you feel undeserving, review previous achievements and positive feedback. Recount the people who you made a difference to. This will assure you that you belong. Do not be ostentatious, that is not a good trait, however downplaying your success helps no one.
- Avoid comparisons: these can be lethal. Thinking there are people out there doing similar work to you, even better, so why should you bother is not a justified comparison. Do not measure other’s highs against your lows. Every successful person was in your place once. It may appear that some people achieve success effortlessly. The reality is we do not know what struggles another person may be going through. Learn to value your own strengths and potential, you will soon realise you have a lot to offer the world.
- Evaluate the context: reflect on the other times you have felt less confident. Ask yourself if you always feel insecure, uncertain, and unconfident. This will help you identify when you did feel in control and the steps you took. Maybe you could use the same techniques and strategies again. Write some notes in a journal or notebook so that you can remember those feelings, and how to get back to an increased positive mind-set again.
- Pursue your goals: I have found the best way to challenge IS, is to continue taking action, do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by how you feel. It takes a lot of courage to pursue challenging situations, recognising your feelings, the steps you can take and evaluate the context you can achieve. None of us know how much we can accomplish until we try. The world needs action takers, innovators, and leaders to look up to, be proud of your achievements, ability, and aspirations. MOST of all be proud of YOU!
TA Barker Associates offer one to one mentoring, Coaching and Training to support managers and business owners personal development – get in touch to find out how we can help you with a free 30 minute consultation. Tracy-Anne@tabarkerassociates.co.uk