I have blogged about what imposter syndrome is before. It is basically the feeling some people get when they believe they are not up to their job, or role. They feel like they don’t deserve to be in whatever position it is. Maybe they put their position down to fluke, or having good support. They will often live with a fear of “being found out”. I have also blogged about how to know if you have imposter syndrome.
So today I am going to talk about 7 ways of dealing with imposter syndrome, and I would love to know if any of them help you.
1. Understand what you are dealing with. Start by having a look at the two posts I have linked to above. Accept that this syndrome exists. I promise you it does. I have seen it so often in my work both as a coach and in previous roles. I have even experienced it. When that inner voice tells you that you are a fraud, a fake, an imposter, remind yourself – it is lying. You are lying to yourself. When it pipes up, tell yourself, “it’s OK, it is just the imposter syndrome”. Naming and shaming it will help get you the perspective you need to tackle it and make it immediately more manageable.
2. Accept compliments at face value. And don’t contradict the person giving you the compliment. It is a terrible habit. We are taught, as women, to be modest. It is ingrained in us. If you find yourself contradicting whoever it is that praises you, bite your tongue. Break the modesty habit. Even if it is just a smile and a thank you. OK, so your contradictions might still be going on in your head, but at least you are not giving them a voice. I have written more about accepting compliments here. The key is to keep it simple, and believe that whoever is complimenting you means it. Because in 99% of cases, they do.
3. Look at your successes. Write them down. Be as boasty as you like, as only you are going to read this. Careful now, just the successes and achievements. Do NOT qualify them. Just a list of things you have achieved, and keep it factual. Go back to your list every single day. Read them out to yourself. Imagine how much you would admire someone ese if it was their list. It isn’t though. It’s yours. Make sure you list things you didn’t see as an achievement. Exam results, promotions, new jobs, weight loss goals, sport and fitness achievements.
4. Recognise that no-one is perfect. Perfection is unachievable. It really is. People with imposter syndrome are very often perfectionists. It is part of what makes them so fricking hard on themselves. And because they know that they aren’t perfect, this is part of what makes the imposter take hold. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Really and honestly and truly. Allowing yourself not be perfect, and being OK with that, will give yourself more realistic expectations of yourself. And you won’t freak out when you make a genuine mistake and think the whole world will realise what a fraud you are. Because you are not a fraud. You’re just human.
5. Talk to someone. Me, a friend, a therapist, even a colleague. Ask whoever it is to just listen for a while, so that you can voice your fears without being worried about being judged or interrupted. Depending on who it is they might laugh you out of the room (don’t worry, a coach or therapist won’t laugh you out of the room, I promise. But your best friend or a close team mate might.) They might tell you all the reasons you are not an imposter, which you may well not believe. But you have this problem, so share it with someone. They might even say “I know exactly what you mean!” Because they get it too. Who knows? But talking about it gives perspective. It really does.
6. Banish words such as only, just, it was nothing etc when you are talking about what you have done. Stop it. Now. It minimises what you have achieved. To others but, most importantly, yourself. And the imposter syndrome is all about you. It is in your head. No-one else thinks you are a fake or a fraud. So when someone at work asks about what you have been doing don’t qualify it with things like “I have just been drafting a report”. And when they congratulate you on something don’t you dare say “it only took an hour.” Or whatever it is. Listen to yourself speak when you interact with others. How often do you add extra qualifying words to your sentences to bring yourself down?
7. Work on being objective. About other people and yourself. There is a great exercise I do with my clients which is a kind of role swap, switching positions with other people who are involved and apart from the specific situation, so we can get out of the way of all the clutter in our heads. When you are looking at your own work, try looking at it through someone else’s eyes. When you are looking at others, try and do it from a different perspective, without comparison, without judgement.
I really get what a weird position it is to be in, this fear that you will be found out. But unless you are actively lying to get where you are, which awesome people don’t do, then you are not a fake. You are not a fraud. And you are probably a whole lot more awesome than you give yourself credit for. And once you beat this you will feel so free, and will be able to achieve so much more. But you have to stop beating yourself up.
So start now.