“I’m not clever enough”, “I’m not experienced enough”, “I’m not creative enough”, “I’m not good enough”. Just some of the thoughts that haunt people with Impostor Syndrome.
If you’re one of these people, you’re not unusual. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I meet a lot of people like this on my assertiveness and confidence courses.
Some people are riddled with self-doubt, often off the back of completely false pretences. As a result, they find themselves stuck in a rut completely unnecessarily.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor Syndrome is a psychological state which leads you to doubt your accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.
People with Impostor Syndrome often feel fake. They are terrified of being ‘found out’. They believe they fraudulently give the impression that they are more competent than they actually are. This is borne from a sense that they lack the knowledge or expertise to perform effectively.
If they’re promoted, they feel they don’t deserve it and aren’t worthy of it. They constantly question the decision and convince themselves that somebody probably made a mistake. They feel they don’t deserve success or praise, even when it is totally warranted. Everyone else sees it apart from them.
Not surprisingly, if you think like this, your self-confidence and self-esteem is unlikely to be high.
This can have significant repercussions; you stop yourself doing things that you know could help you to develop, improve and ultimately be more successful.
What causes Impostor Syndrome?
More often than not, people with Impostor Syndrome are being irrational. If you ask them to explain why they feel as they do, they can’t produce any evidence. They struggle to find any significant failure or embarrassing experience that can justify it. In other words, it’s a complete falsehood because there’s no proof.
Some try to correct the feeling. They become a complete workhorse thinking that if they put all the hours they can into their work, then that might make the praise or success justifiable. But for a lot of people, even that doesn’t work. It just leads to a greater sense of stress and exhaustion.
So how do you counteract Impostor Syndrome?
1. Face up to the issue
First you must acknowledge you have it! Then come to terms with it and make a personal pact with yourself that you will address the issue. Believe people when they give you compliments.
2. Stop making excuses
Try to reconcile the success you’ve achieved with the reasons you’ve achieved it. Be honest with yourself by seeking out and accepting the evidence.
3. Be realistic
Continue to challenge yourself but be realistic. Keep your bar at a level that allows you to manage your expectations sensibly. Then, when you reach a target, truly acknowledge the success.
4. Take incremental steps
Plan ahead. Be clear about what the path to success looks like. Don’t move on to the next step until you’ve truly acknowledged the personal successes of the previous challenge.
5. Take stock
Reflect regularly on your progress and the reasons for it. Dispel the thoughts of being exposed as a fraud by replacing them with the evidence you can provide of your progress.
6. Remember you’re human
Continually remind yourself that it’s normal and OK not to know everything. Expect to learn as you progress. Be confident in saying you don’t know something and feel comfortable looking for assistance when it would help.
7. Share your concerns
Don’t be embarrassed to share your feelings. Most people experience Impostor Syndrome at some point. Sharing concerns is courageous. People know this. Don’t whinge though, just explain your feelings honestly without letting emotion interfere.
8. Accept failure
Endeavour and expect to succeed but accept that sometimes you will fail. See the positives that failure can bring and treat failure as an opportunity to learn something new. Then use the lessons later.