Do you ever wonder how you got away with a piece of work? You no doubt patted yourself on the back for achieving it against all the odds – or that you didn’t get ‘found out’. But then you have great self belief in your abilities, right? Well, some people don’t and this is when Imposter Syndrome kicks in.
Imposter syndrome, or fraud syndrome as it is sometimes called, is that nagging doubt that even though to everyone else in the office you seem supremely successful and capable, you are convinced that you’re just bluffing your way through and that any moment now you’ll be found out. You are afraid that your achievements are due to “breaks” and not the result of ability and competence. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing or as a result of deceiving others and unless you put intense effort in next time the success cannot be repeated.
Here are some ways to get over that fear and rediscover confidence:
- Write down a list of your feelings or thoughts. We understand and make sense of our lives better when we open up those neurological pathways. Write down what you’re feeling—what annoys or creates anxieties for you about your situation? Once you have exhausted your list, take a reality check. On it, what is true, maybe true, or has no basis in reality? Did you find any that were true?
- Talk to someone else about it. Simply talking about anxieties openly with others can be enough to help overcome fears. When you realise other people have these feelings too and that, in light of actual accomplishments ,such feelings are just not realistic, it can be a real relief.
- Keep a positive record. Keep a list of your accomplishments throughout the year. Use this to reflect on (and celebrate!) your strengths when you start to think negatively about your achievements.
- Do something positive. Don’t let stress paralyse action, think of three things you can do that will move you forward. Often we feel stress because we are in avoidance mode. We procrastinate a project, or delay making that important phone call. Leaving things for later only exacerbates matters. Deal with issues head on, and cross items off your to-do list. You’ll recover a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will put a stop to those voices in your head saying you’re not good enough.
- Recognise it for what it is. Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among people who’ve just started in a new job, set up a new business or high performers. For some, even more frustrating is that the more you succeed, the worse it becomes. Understand that as your career progresses, it becomes more likely that your internal doubt could return as you feel there is more to lose, and longer to fall if you fail. As uncomfortable as these feelings are, take stock of where you are and recognize that what you’re experiencing is completely normal.
- Decide to stop it! Make a conscious decision to stop and really savour those exhilarating mental high points and forgive yourself for the inevitable lulls. “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud,” V Young
Another way to respond to imposter syndrome is to be aware that the feeling actually indicates positive things about you as a professional. Feelings of faking it are usually associated with intelligence, diligence and competence. Neuroscientist and Ted speaker Bradley Voytek wrote on his blog, that:
“Anecdotally, [imposter syndrome] appears to be fairly rampant among academics and other “smart” people. At some point during your career, possibly more than once, you will look at your peers and think to yourself, “I’m not as good as they are; I am not cut out for this…”
Listen to that voice. Understand where it’s coming from. But be aware that you’re failing to recognise your own accomplishments. No one is waiting for you to fail. You’re not a fraud, and your success is well-deserved, not just a lucky outcome. It’s okay and natural to feel anxiety, but make sure those feelings don’t get in the way of confidence in yourself and celebration of your achievements. So don’t stress if you feel like an impostor sometimes. You’re in good company, you’re probably wrong in your fears, and, on the contrary, are extremely professional and conscientious. All you need to do is ride out that feeling.
Here’s a fun approach that might help? – but definitely another way to just stop it!
And as if that wasn’t enough entertainment– some Elvis Costello and The Imposters for you!
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