18 Oct 2019

Career Development

It’s time to stop feeling like an imposter

Written by Dennis Stanley

Have you ever felt like those around you – your colleagues or even your friends – are going to find out that you don’t really know what you’re doing? That you’re not really deserving of your success? Or, simply that you’re a big, fat fraud?

Yes? It sounds like you could be experiencing imposter syndrome.

Who experiences Imposter Syndrome?

You can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone in feeling this way. In fact, all of those people that you’re so worried will discover your ugly truth have probably felt the same way themselves at some point.

While the statistics show that imposter syndrome is more prevalent among women, men also suffer from it too.

It’s also, in the majority of cases, a mindset that is experienced by successful people. They may have a degree (or two!), a high flying job and are well respected by their peers. Yet, despite the number of achievements they have on paper, they often feel that they have only got to where they are through chance, or luck, or some other way that detracts from where the credit is due.

Does this sound familiar to you?

It can be surprising who does suffer from imposter syndrome actually. Some of the most seemingly-held-together, accomplished public figures out there have spoken about feeling that they don’t deserve the recognition they get or that everyone will, one day, realise they are a phony. These include Michelle ObamaHoward SchultzSerena Williams and Tom Hanks, to name but a few.

What causes imposter syndrome?

Now that you know you’re in good company, let’s take a look at why we get imposter syndrome.

I can’t discuss these types of feelings of inadequacy with my clients without talking about limiting beliefs and how they manifest themselves. Much like the name suggests, limiting beliefs are statements you believe, that are holding you back from growth and achieving your potential.

The incredibly frustrating thing about these kinds of beliefs is that they don’t announce themselves as being from the self-limiting variety. We’re actually pretty good at convincing ourselves that they are the honest truth about the situation.

Quite often they manifest themselves through a fear of failure or a fear of success. We (subconsciously) self-sabotage ourselves to avoid having to face our fears.

And, that’s where they tie in with imposture syndrome. We begin to envisage a warped version of ourselves as our self-identity to talk ourselves down from attempting to achieve something and, in turn, putting ourselves at risk.

How can we overcome imposter syndrome?

It takes practice, but you can overcome imposter syndrome. There are a number of tactics that I use with my coaching clients, depending on their character and preference. I’ve given a brief outline of some of them below:

1. Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Self-reflection can be quite an uncomfortable feeling, especially when you’re not used to doing it. If you can gain a true understanding of what you are good at and where you need to improve, it makes it easier to figure out if what you are thinking is true or not. Maybe that promotion was a case of being in the right place at the right time? Or, maybe it was because you are good at what you do?

2. Acknowledge your feelings

It’s important to remember that feelings and thoughts aren’t hard facts. Acknowledging and examining them takes their power away, and helps you to see them for what they really are.

3. Let go of perfectionism

Nobody gets it right all of the time. And, when you expect yourself to be consistently perfect it provides you with a nice big proverbial stick to beat yourself with when you don’t. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Acknowledge and accept them when they happen – and then move on.

4. Challenge limiting beliefs and unhelpful thought processes

When you start to criticise yourself, pause for a second and ask yourself if what you are thinking is really true. Consider if it is what other people would think about the situation if asked? Can you provide evidence to support what you are thinking? Don’t just allow the self-criticism to wash over you unheeded.

5. Own your successes

Accept compliments and give yourself credit where it is due. If you find yourself constantly attributing the positive things to external sources, the help of others or a stroke of good luck for example, yet blaming everything on yourself when things go wrong, it is time to stop.

None of these will be easy to do at first. Often you’re, quite literally, changing the habits of a lifetime. But, it’s worth it in the end, when you can start to be kinder to yourself and believe in yourself more.

If this article has resonated with you, and you’d like help overcoming your own imposter syndrome and limiting beliefs, send me an email to dennis.stanley@marriage-stanley.com