If you find yourself doubting your accomplishments or experiencing a fear of being exposed as a fraud, you may be experiencing a case of “imposter syndrome”.

Whether you’re familiar with the term imposter syndrome or not, the symptoms are surprisingly common.  Leaving imposter syndrome unchecked, however, could be holding you back in different areas of your life and, in more extreme cases, could actually become debilitating.

The good news is that there are a number of simple strategies that you could use to help you quieten your inner imposter.

 

What on earth is imposter syndrome?

Like many terms we hear banded around, there is no single definition. These are a few that resonate with me.

“A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence” – Harvard Business Review

  • “A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has an internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ ” – Wikipedia.
  • An inability to acknowledge & internalise accomplishments is also a recurring theme.

 

Critical self-talk

Essentially, imposter syndrome manifests itself in our heads, via unhelpful thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. What’s more beliefs are, simply stories we tell ourselves. So, what kind of things do we tell ourselves when we experience imposter syndrome?

  • “Help! I’m out of my depth” – maybe in a new /different situation
  • “I’m not worthy” – of the praise / recognition that someone is giving me
  • “I feel like a fraud” – I shouldn’t really be here
  • “I doubt myself” – I’m not sure that I’m capable
  • “I’ve just been lucky” – I was in the right place at the right time, it’s not linked to merit
  • “I’ll get found out” – when they see what I’m really like

 

Why does this happen?

There’s no single cause of imposter syndrome and triggers may differ by person, but, on reflection, it’s probably not that surprising.

  • Many of us are ‘on show’ 24/7 – via social media and other virtual or physical platforms
  • There are high expectations of us from society…and even higher expectations from ourselves … not to mention those from friends and family
  • Many of us have amazing dreams and aspirations that we want to fulfil
  • All while wanting to be the ‘best version’ of ourselves

 

The prevalence of imposter syndrome

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

You do, too?

We’re not alone then.

In fact, we’re in amazingly good company…

A recent UK study found that 62% of UK adults say they’ve experienced imposter syndrome at work in the past 12 months.

Furthermore, it can impact surprisingly high achievers. In recent years, there’ve been a number of celebrities admitting that they suffer from imposter syndrome. This includes some that you’d think would have it all sorted including Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington.

Here are a few examples of when I’ve experienced imposter syndrome over the last few years:

  • At work, at a conference, in interviews – even though I’ve been an accountant for 20 years and am actually OK at what I do
  • Pitching for business, running workshops and networking for my ‘side-hustle
  • On a coaching course, surrounded by some amazing people
  • As a blogger– why would anyone be interested in anything I have to say?
  • Even sometimes as a parent!

 

What’s the significance of imposter syndrome?

If we leave imposter syndrome unchecked, it could hold us back from achieving our potential and living our true lives. What a huge potential loss!

It can also leave us feeling very uncomfortable. At worst, it can become debilitatingand have significant negative impacts on us and those around us. Symptoms can include excessive stress, an intense fear of failure, performance anxiety and a general loss of self-confidence. Common ways that these symptoms could manifest include procrastination, perfectionism, indecisiveness, risk aversion, micromanagement and workaholism.

None of these impacts are desirable, so let’s look at some ways to quieten our inner imposters.

 

Strategies for dealing with imposter syndrome

Alas, there is no ‘one size fits all’ cure or solution for imposter syndrome.

These are some tools that I use, and that could help you too:

  • Accept that it’s OK to feel it, as long as it doesn’t inhibit your ability or cripple your progression
  • Embrace who you are – remind yourself of your strengths and skills
  • Take stock of all the things you’ve done and how far you’ve come
  • Embrace your status – whether you’re a newcomer, long serving or an expert
  • Identify peers and colleagues who you can speak to
  • Tell yourself some positive affirmations e.g. I am a successful business owner
  • Revisit reviews & feedback from others. They’re probably not just saying nice things to make you feel good.
  • Challenge any ‘limiting beliefs’ that could be holding you back – e.g. I’ve never been good at maths.
  • Cultivate more helpful patterns of thinking e.g. I am capable of learning new tasks and skills.
  • Investigate options for coaching, NLP and workshops – see below

For further insight, check out these 7 coping strategies to deal with imposter syndrome.

 

A little extra support

Self-help can certainly be very useful, but sometimes working with others can really help you to move forwards.

Coaching

Coaching can help you get from where you are today, to where you want to be, growing your dreams into reality and unlocking your true potential. Benefits of coaching include raising awareness levels, and bringing light to your values and ambitions, as well as any issues you may be experiencing.  Coaching can also support you to devise action plans to enable you to reach your full potential and achieve your goals.

NLP

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is the art & science of personal excellence.

Different NLP techniques can be used improve various aspects of your life, including your

  • outcomes (dreams, goals and objectives)
  • state (your feelings and your behaviours)
  • ability to understand & communicate with others etc.

Workshops

A workshop can be useful to learn that you’re not alone, to discuss and share strategies with others and to experience some tools and techniques first hand.

As a qualified coach and NLP practitioner, I’ve worked with a number of clients to reduce the impact of imposter syndrome.

I also run an Imposter Syndrome workshop. Sign up today, to learn and try out some techniques that could help you.

 

Wrap up

Imposter syndrome is surprisingly common and can crop up in different areas of our lives. If we leave it unchecked, it could hold us back from achieving our potential and living our true lives. At worst, it could become debilitating, having significant negative impacts on us and those around us. As it comes from our internal beliefs and feelings, we have the ability to do something about it. There are numerous tools and techniques that you could try to quieten your inner imposter.

 

Thank you for reading.

Adapted from article first published on Age Life Balance on 16th January 2019.