Lifting the Mask on Imposter Syndrome
Have you ever felt that you are not good enough? Do you think your current situation is down to pure luck rather than your abilities and talent? Do you say things to yourself that you would never dream of saying to others? Do you constantly doubt yourself? Do you feel you are a fraud within your career, and do you live in a state of fear that you will “get found out”?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be struggling with imposter syndrome – the feeling that no matter what you achieve, you are not good enough and that whilst others deserve their success, positions and accolades, you do not. The effects of this self-doubt and lack of self-confidence can be far-reaching.
What is the impact of imposter syndrome?
If you cannot appreciate your own unique awesomeness, if you cannot celebrate your successes and achievements, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to women in general. If you don’t appreciate yourself, you will always lack self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem, which means you won’t fully show up. This may mean you don’t speak up in meetings, you don’t give your opinion, you outwardly agree with someone when inwardly you have an opposing view (which ironically is more akin to being an imposter as you are not being true to yourself!), you don’t go for your dream job, you won’t ask for help when you need it, you become a workaholic, and you procrastinate to avoid doing something you fear because you are worried you will get “found out” that you can’t do it.
We are all unique, and even when we have the same experiences, we experience things differently because of our unique make-up and what has happened previously. For example, for some, a roller coaster is an adrenaline thrill; for others, it is something to be dreaded. Two people can go on the same ride and have a very different experience. As Jodie Patterson put it: “My best asset cannot be measured or copied or calculated – it’s my mojo.” Each of us has a unique mojo – a unique way of being and of experiencing the world, and this is what I believe we need to embrace and build upon.
There is no point in comparing yourself; you are unique, so there is no comparison. Accept who you are and build on this. Or, if comparison is your thing, use this to inspire you – if someone else has achieved it, then it is possible. Benchmark achievements to push and to motivate yourself, but don’t expect to do things exactly the same as that person or get identical results. Also, do the reality check of where they are in their career compared to you. A young filmmaker comparing themselves to Steven Spielberg may feel inadequate, but the fair comparison would be against Steven Spielberg’s work in his first year of his career. This is not to say great things are not possible, or that you shouldn’t strive for huge accomplishments, but also be kind and fair to yourself.
Are we all imposters to a certain degree?
A baby develops and becomes a child, who keeps learning and developing and becomes an adult. You’ve probably heard the analogy about if a baby gave up after trying to walk for the first, second, third, hundredth time of falling down, we would all still be crawling. There is no failure to a baby – just feedback – so they keep trying. Are they an imposter? An imposter walker? An imposter child or adult? Or are they just where they are at this point in their development?
If you accept imposter syndrome affects the majority of us (Amy Cuddy in Presence states that recent studies suggest as high as 70% of the population will experience these feelings at some point in their lives), and it will hit you when you are trying something new, so how can you prepare yourself for it – to ensure you keep growing, and learning and developing, and moving through those icky feelings so you can accomplish what you are destined to do?
Remember, you can feel totally confident in one area of your life and feel like a complete fraud in another. For example, if you start a new job, you may start to feel you are not good enough at work; however, you are also a regular yoga practitioner, and when you are on your mat, you feel confident in your body and in your yoga practice. It is important to keep recognizing the areas you are growing in and boxing-in these areas so they don’t leak into other areas – and you can then use the confidence you feel in these other areas to help buoy you. When you started your yoga practice, you had no idea what a downward dog was. You learned, you practiced and now you don’t even need to think about it.
So, how can you prepare yourself and beat these feelings of being an imposter?
1. Have a notebook that lists all your accomplishments – big or small, recent or from any point in your life. These accomplishment can be something within your career, from your bucket list, something personal, something professional, something that was publicly recognized, something you privately dreamed of and achieved. Refer to them when self-doubt rears its head to remind yourself of how awesome you are
2. Pick one of your many accomplishments and reflect on this – how did you feel when you started? What did you have to do to achieve this? How long did it take? Were there times you wanted to give up? What was it like when you achieved them? Really remember this – what did you see? What did you feel? What did you hear? Were the end results worth any struggle or sacrifice you had to make to achieve them?
3. Now answer this: If you were transported back in time to just before you started your journey towards something you have achieved, and could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
4. Using the above information, how can you support yourself now as you move into starting to achieve your next amazing accomplishment?
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