Impostor Syndrome

Beat Impostor Syndrome with Success

Both men and women are attacked by impostor syndrome. They put their successes down to luck or constant hard work rather than being intelligent and talented. They are afraid of being ‘found out’, that they are not really clever or deserving of success.

To overcome impostor syndrome, first recognise that you have it and then that it is an unhelpful pattern of thought which you can break by valuing your successes, reprogramming your inner-voice, getting an outside view, dismissing perfectionism, and embracing curiosity.

To value your successes, recognise and acknowledge them all, large and small. Don’t distance yourself from achievement by thinking ‘anyone could do it’ or ‘this is what I am supposed to do’. The fact is you have achieved it!

When other people recognise and acknowledge your successes, then accept that recognition, again without distancing yourself from it. Say ‘thank you’ without adding something like ‘it was nothing really’

Keep a record of your success, large or small and use it to give you a boost when you need one. This is not boasting but proof of your abilities. Use it as evidence that you are not an impostor

Beat Impostor Syndrome by silencing your inner-critic

We can control our inner-voice. What we say to ourselves comes from us and is encouraged by us. We can decide to stop telling ourselves unhelpful things that sap our confidence and bring us down, and instead tell ourselves things that are helpful, affirming.

It’s all too easy to ‘protect’ ourselves from the ‘danger’ that our inner-critic is warning us about but what actually is that danger? Is it admitting to having a different opinion, a fear of being thought a fool, or making a mistake or failing at something. All of these things stop us from being our true selves and limit our development.

When your inner-critic kicks in, challenge it and decide how the real-you wants to behave. Ask yourself what you gain by defying your inner-critic compared to giving in to your inner-critic. Try out the ‘real-you’ and remember that you are intimately in control of your inner voice.

Beat Impostor Syndrome with curiosity

How often have you remained silent when listening to someone talking ‘oh so confidently’ about something that you disagree with or are not so convinced by or you don’t fully understand? Did you think that you must be wrong or not clever enough or did you just not want to show yourself up?

Constructive questioning is a good thing. It leads to good solid and well thought out solutions and realistic and effective practices. By not asking questions, factors and alternative solutions go unconsidered and the way forward is not as thoroughly planned as it could be which leads to problems and wasted time in the future.

So, what will happen if you ask a question? Firstly, you will get the information that you wanted. Secondly, you will be contributing to a thoroughly thought through solution. Thirdly, chances are other people will be pleased because you’re probably asking a question, they wanted the answer to (but didn’t maybe because of their impostor syndrome!).

As with everything, practise makes things easier. As you build your ‘questioning confidence’, it can help to have some pre-prepared questions and to try one or two of them out when appropriate and see what happens. From there develop your skill.

Beat Impostor Syndrome by letting go of perfectionism

There is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is an unrealistic goal, and if we aim for it then we will always be disappointed and dissatisfied with our efforts.

Do we think we see perfection in others? If so, we are fooling ourselves. There is a saying which I find particularly useful ‘don’t comparing your inside with someone else’s outside

When you set goals, make sure they are realistic and achievable. Ask yourself, what is ‘good-enough’ for each task, for example if you are giving a presentation to a customer it will probably need to be to a high standard but to your team it may be fine just to present a rough outline. For each goal, take into account how it fits with your personal goals, where it fits in your priorities, how much time and other resources you have to spend on it. Also recognise that mistakes along the way are a fact of life and that from each of these you can learn something and so develop.

Beat Impostor Syndrome by sharing

A great tip for avoiding ‘impostor syndrome’ trap is to get an outside opinion. By keeping our insecurities inside our head they are likely to grow and we are more likely to enlarge the not-so-good things and minimise the good things. By asking for an outside opinion from someone we trust we will get a more accurate perspective.

There are two parts to this opinion. The first is to highlight and celebrate the good stuff and the second is to look constructively at anything that it would be appropriate to improve for next time. Note that I use the words ‘constructive’ and ‘appropriate’. ‘Constructive’, because we want to see making changes as a positive part of our development, and ‘appropriate’, because we are not aiming for perfection and some things are already ‘good enough’.

Looking at our performance through the eyes of a spectator rather than from within our own heads gives us a more realistic view and we can use this overcome our fears of being an impostor.