How to deal with ‘impostor syndrome’ head on!

Yesterday I spoke with a lovely woman who had just found out she’s got a fabulous new job, as she said herself, a considerable step up for her and a big move, considering she’d been in her existing company for nearly 8 years. Going from co-managing a team of 2, to managing a team of 7 in an exciting new company, seems at the very least, daunting to her.  She’s experiencing much self-doubt and lacking in confidence in her own abilities and experience and continually reminding herself, that she must have got the job for good reason, to temporarily appease herself! This is so common, especially amongst high-achieveing women and I hear it all too often!

Now, in the above example, of course, this a big move, so it’s totally natural to feel nervous and out of her comfort zone. What this lady did mention however, was that she consistently received feedback from her line managers and colleagues over the years, that she didn’t believe in herself and her abilities, so this isn’t just about dealing with change. There is an underlying issue here and there is a name for it!

It’s called ‘Impostor Syndrome’

This common and all-too-familiar feeling (especially for women in the workplace) is a feeling that in spite of external achievements, feedback, training and experience, many women and some men, are convinced that they are a fraud, that it is only a matter of time before someone finds out, and that their success was by chance or luck or inadvertent.

What’s interesting is, this raises it’s head even more so, when people experience change and increased stress! Wham!

Why do people feel this way?

Impostor syndrome simply means attributing one’s successes and accomplishments to luck, feeling like a fake in a room of experts, and discounting one’s own successes. Valerie Young, Ed.D., one of the leaders in the research on this topic, delves into the origins of impostor syndrome and how to overcome it 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. She emphasizes that feeling like an impostor is different from experiencing low self-esteem because often, it is successful and high-achieving women who find themselves feeling like an impostor

Young points out that 70 percent of participants in her study reported feeling like a fraud at some point in their life and that these feelings tend to surface during times of transition, new situations, or an important assignment. If you find yourself making excuses for your success such as, “I just got lucky, that’s all,” then you are likely selling yourself short, she says.

Comparisons & fear of failure

I am forever amazed at how many woman obsess over what their friends or even acquaintances are doing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and comparing their own lives and achievements, usually negatively! It is one of the reasons I stopped using Facebook nearly 2 and a half years ago. I found it so much easier and healthier to just focus on what I’m doing and catch up with people naturally!

At the root of our fear of failure is often the tendency to compare. Many young women struggle with this on a day-to-day basis. Whether comparing jobs or relationships or bodies, we have all done it at some point or another. And social media doesn’t help the situation.

I think it’s a great habit to break and remind yourself that what people show you on FB and social media, is controlled, it’s what they want to show people, you’re not seeing 80% of their lives, just the highlights!

What to do about it?

Quelling those impostor feelings can be done. Young has a few suggestions to help you feel your best, most confident self in your career and beyond.

01. Build your Self-Esteem

Use an MP3 like Paul McKenna’s Instant Confidence and listen daily for at least 3-4 weeks. Create a self-esteem inventory, based on your strengths and weaknesses. Use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to highlight your negative self-talk and limiting beliefs and debunk them! If you’re really struggling with this, I would suggest finding a hypnotherapist like Kelly Buckley.

02. Make an objective list.

Create a list of your successes, accomplishments, feedback and qualifications to remind yourself that you are not a “fraud” and that you are here for good reasons. All of these items on the list are facts and demonstrate the many things you should be proud of.

I would even go as far as to print this out beautifully or draw it up colourfully and hang it on your bedroom mirror and read it aloud to yourself each morning for 40 days! It takes 40 days to create a new habit!

03. Act as you want to feel!

Act as if you are the accomplished, smart person you wish to be, even if you do not feel that way at first. Often after pretending to feel confident, you are likely to actually be more confident. Young says this a more effective strategy than waiting until you feel confident before acting.

04. Consider your definition of success.

Think about what success means and how this affects your view of what it means to be competent. Many people set completely unrealistic standards of success and rely on the idea of “having it all.” This idea can affect our feelings about our own abilities and potential to succeed. As great as it is to follow your dreams and go after the job you want, it’s important to remember your career does not define you.

If this is something you’re struggling with, speak to our Career & Life Coach today and learn how we can help you! Don’t waste another day like this!


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By | 2017-12-04T02:44:20+00:00 September 3rd, 2014|Blog, Career, Career Change, Evelyn Cotter, Executive Coaching, Life|0 Comments

About the Author:

SEVEN Founder, Evelyn Cotter, London.