Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome

OK, confession… I once quit a pivotal role in a startup because of imposter syndrome, only to hear later that my boss thought the exact opposite of me, and was gutted when I left.

Most of my clients actually come to me with so little energy, enjoyment and reward at work that they are considering changing jobs. They have a lack of self-belief and can’t see their own worth. They are usually living in Imposter Syndrome.

Impostor syndrome
is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It’s likely you already know if you have it, but here are some signs you may experience: doubt about your abilities and achievements, negative self-talk, anxiety, lack of self-confidence, inadequacy, poor self-esteem, not feeling good enough, dwelling on mistakes.

How it happens

So, you’ve got this great job. You’ve fought long and hard to get where you are today, you’re well paid and you’re really good at your work. You have a great reputation and professional standing and everything that comes with that.

BUT you drive yourself pretty hard and your performance expectations are very high.

You expect, at your level, to:

  • make few mistakes
  • always manage your workload
  • be able to solve problems quickly
  • make quick, sound decisions
  • have good relations with your team
  • perform at 100%
  • keep to schedule
  • meet performance targets
  • be energised and upbeat
  • not drop any of the balls you are juggling
  • react with grace to difficult situations and people
  • keep your temper under control
  • complete all tasks
  • never feel lousy, down or sick
  • remember everything
  • have no planning fails
  • not need to ask for help
  • never need rest or thinking time
  • avoid spilling lunch down your shirt

You’ve set yourself on a high pedestal there, my friend.

And now you feel like a fraud.

Is it just me?

Nope. It’s good to know that imposter syndrome is universal – everyone has it at times.

Many of us don’t own up to it, though, in case our worst suspicions are realised.

We continue to take our skills for granted, imagining that everyone has equal skills, focusing instead on our fails.

We grade ourselves harshly, whereas others probably don’t see a problem.

How to deal with Imposter Syndrome

Well you can just bravely… run away, like I did. 🙂 I know you’re tempted.

I’m glad I can laugh at myself now, because at the time it felt like a train wreck. As Bertrand Russell said, one of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.

7 ways to let go

  1. The simple first step is to be authentic and talk frankly to someone about it, in the knowledge that they’ve probably had moments of doubt about their own performance.
  2. Seek objective feedback about your performance. We all have areas requiring improvement, but overall you might be surprised, delighted even.
  3. Take an unbiased look at your own successes and achievements. The mind always looks for the problems – make a new practice to notice and celebrate the wins. Be grateful for the skills and abilities you are blessed with. Find ways to relish your expertise.
  4. Be a tall poppy. Don’t be shy about your talents and accomplishments – don’t pretend you don’t have them.
  5. Take an unbiased look at each of your fails – Was it REALLY a fail? Were there other factors contributing to the perceived failure? Was it a total flop? Or was there some achievement hidden in there? Don’t let your brain catastrophise with its opinions. Experiment with new thoughts that shed a different light on your efforts. It can help to ask “What would I say if my best friend had this ‘fail’?”
  6. With humility own your part, learn, accept and admit your humanity. People are more sympathetic to others who are warm, caring, hardworking, supportive and accepting. When you show vulnerability by admitting your fails, you also invite better relationships. Results are not everything. There’s no shame in having strengths and weaknesses.
  7. To err is human, to forgive divine – forgive yourself.

One last thought

Do you still have this job, in which you feel like an imposter?

Is it then possible that others see you differently, and value you in a way that you have not been able to value yourself?

Be your own best mate – accept and celebrate the you-ness of you.

There’s no downside to supporting your own unique talents and contribution.

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