Do you ever feel like a failure? Even if you appear to be successful, are you worried that you could get found out for the fraud you are at any moment? Well, you’re not alone. Impostor syndrome: It’s far more common than you think.
Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you are not good enough, that you do not deserve the success you are experiencing, like one day you’ll get found out. You look at other people and they appear to have it all figured out. in fact, many of those people are probably feeling exactly the same as you. But that is half the problem because we don’t talk about it, we assume that we are the only one feeling this way.
In the book Lean in, Sheryl Sandberg remembers a speech she heard at college, “She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. … I thought it was the best speech I had ever heard.”
How do you know if you are experiencing impostor syndrome?
Here are some of the indicators:
Perfectionism – you can never settle for anything less than perfect. And as it’s very hard to be perfect it means you are constantly chasing an ideal that is unrealistic?
You feel like a fraud – you walk into a networking event and feel like you don’t deserve to be there. Yes, you run your own business, you’re achieving success but what if someone discovers that you don’t really know what you are doing?
You’re always comparing – you are always comparing yourself to other people and coming up short. We can’t know what is going on in someone else’s mind so when we see them looking relaxed and smiling, we think they have it all figured out. But they could be thinking the same thing about you.
Praise feels uncomfortable – we reject praise and positive comments because we feel we don’t deserve it. We know that person wouldn’t offer that praise if they really knew the truth.
Imposter syndrome is a limiting belief. These are simply beliefs we have about ourselves that limit our ability, confidence and potential. The problem is, we like to be right, so when we have a limiting belief such as ‘I’m no good at speaking in public’ we look for evidence that supports our belief and ignore all the evidence that disproves it. For example, if, when speaking in public we make a mistake, that just adds weight to our belief. If it goes well, we ignore this and put it down to luck or a ‘friendly audience’ or anything that helps us to maintain our belief.
Think of all the things you may never have the courage to take on if you listen to the imposter syndrome devil, whispering in your ear!
Overcoming impostor syndrome?
It won’t change overnight so you have to be kind to your self and take small steps:
Fake it till you make it?
Some say that acting confident makes you look confident and that in turn makes you feel more confident. Many recommend a power stance (think big and strong) to put yourself in a confident mood, or even red underwear. Red is known as a power colour. See if secretly wearing it makes you feel invincible.
Say thank you when someone praises you
It can really be as simple as that. When someone praises your work or even simply says “I like your necklace” say “thank you”. You’ll immediately feel the lift that the compliment was intended to give you, and you’ll make the person giving you the praise feel good too.
Reflect on your achievements
make a mind map of all the things you have achieved. Think about work, family, hobbies, and friendships. Think of it as gathering evidence to support the belief that you are a worthwhile person. You are good enough just the way you are. You just need to remind yourself. Make it a habit to daily or weekly write down your achievements to prove to yourself how great you are.
Reframe failure as feedback
“Ultimately there is no such thing as failure. There are lessons learned in different ways.” Twyla Tharp
If you’re afraid of failing, then think of all the opportunities to learn that you are missing. Most learning comes from failing. If you can look for the learning in everything you do, then it will never feel like a failure. Go into new situations with a mindset of curiosity. Challenge yourself to find the learning in every new experience.
Create a belief wall
Create a compelling visual representation of everything good in your life. Add photos, memorabilia, thank you notes, cards, magazine cuttings, anything that makes you feel positive. Display it someone that you can look at it when you need a quick reminder of all the good things in your life.
Ask your self “what evidence do I have that this is true?” and “what evidence do I have that this is false?”
You’re not alone
Michelle Obama talks openly about her experiance. She says “I still have a little imposter syndrome, it never goes away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me seriously. what do I know?” You can read the full BBC news article here.
In her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Valerie Young says “The imposter club has untold millions of members around the world. It’s made up of women and men of all races, religions, and socioeconomic classes. They come from a wide range of educational backgrounds from high school dropouts to multiple Ph.D.’s, from such diverse fields as law enforcement, music, and medicine, and from entry-level to CEO.”
Trust in your ability, even if you feel doubt do it anyway. Don’t let fear hold you back from achieving even more than you have already.
Take a look at this Ted-Ed Talk by Elizabeth Cox
Remember, no-one else thinks you are an impostor. The only person you have to convince is yourself.
If your self doubt appears when you go networking you may want to read my blog Networking Nerves – No Need!