Managing Imposter Syndrome
I regular speak to people who don’t feel good enough at work – clients, peers and friends. They tend to hold the view that they are in their current position by way of fluke or error, devaluing their strengths and accomplishments with an overriding fear of being ‘found out’ as being a fraud. This is Imposter Syndrome, a phrase first coined in 1978 by Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes. Although it can arguably support growth and development and minimise stagnation as one strives to improve, this lack of confidence can be stressful, exhausting and may actually even become debilitating.
Imposter Syndrome is often triggered or exacerbated by some kind of change, such as a new job, new boss, or additional responsibility with high performers the most likely to experience it as they strive for “perfection”. To the outside world, they are likely to appear top of their game and in control yet as it’s often masked, sufferers can feel that it’s just them in this position, unaware that 70% of people do or have felt exactly the same – therefore making it feel then even worse!
For those of us who do or have suffered from Imposter Syndrome, it’s unlikely to disappear from our lives entirely but so that we can manage and use it to our advantage, here’s some tips which you may find useful:
1. First, tell yourself it’s OK and normal to feel vulnerable from time to time and we should accept it. Researcher, Brene Brown, talks about vulnerability being necessary and that if we numb our negative feelings, we run the risk of numbing our positive emotions too. (Ted Talk, Ted.com, The Power of Vulnerability).
2. Note your achievements, strengths and successes. Draw not just on outcomes but also how you got there and what you learnt and overcame to do so. You are likely to find that you are stronger and more resilient than you give yourself credit for. What learnings can you take forward?
3. Challenge the concept and measurement of perfection. What is perfection and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Now, ask yourself what is ‘good enough’ and identify how you will measure it. You may find his produces more clear and objective criteria which in turn is more likely to help you take action.
4. Recognise when you’re experiencing Imposter Syndrome, accept it, and write down ways you can use it to help you. For example, if you feel you’re not equipped to be leading a project, establish what it is that you’re specifically concerned about and identify small steps that you can take to start to address this.
5. Remind yourself that statistically, seventy percent of people in the room with you also feel like an imposter, who, like you, are also unlikely to be showing it. You’re not alone.
6. Write down at the end of each day what’s gone well, what you’ve overcome and what you’ve achieved. Celebrate and reward yourself, however small.
If you’d like help managing Imposter Syndrome then please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.