Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

A close up photo of a woman sitting typing
May 23, 2021

Imposter Syndrome is real! You cannot see it, others can't tell you are suffering from it, but if you leave it to fester, then it can really become an issue and cause you stress.

So, what is imposter syndrome?

Simply put, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like you do not belong there, you feel like you are a fraud, and that you will get found out at any moment. American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term, back in 1978. They described it as "a feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement."

When I chat to our sisterhood, I hear this referred to a lot, and I suffer from it myself and it can be really debilitating.  It can knock your confidence and make you perform less well. So why do we experience this and what can we do about it?

It's not uncommon. It's estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this phenomenon in their lives. I recently read an article based on a paper by The American Psychological Society and it said that "despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise." 

It seems crazy that we do this to ourselves and as it cannot be seen, it's not something our colleagues can even look out for. There are things that you can put in place though, to help you to overcome these feelings:

Focus on your goals and quieten your inner critic

We are creatures of habit and when you take us out of our comfort zone, all of a sudden, we start to doubt ourselves. This is normal and as I've said in a previous blog, we need to address these vulnerabilities to move forward. You do not have to have everything figured out.

Remember that everyone who has stepped out of their comfort zone has felt the same, you need to counter your inner voice, and focus on your own goals, then you're more likely to stick at it and succeed.

Don't listen to the inner critic when it starts to think you may fail!

Sometimes your inner voice can start to rear its head saying what if I fail? What if your head is going over previous experiences and you can't seem to shake off the feeling that it will happen again? We've all done this, it's like a protection thing where we tell ourselves it's ok "I didn't manage to get the promotion last time, so there is no chance I'll get it this time," so you're almost saying to yourself "what's the point?"

A fundamental part of being human is that we are constantly learning from the things that we failed at or didn't turn out as we hoped - that's what makes us human and none of us are immune But, it's how we learn from what didn't go right that makes us stronger and that's the key. If we all quit our goals after one set back, no one would achieve anything. It's about realising that without setbacks, you can't achieve goals and you may even find a new route to achieving them in the process.

Next time this happens, think to yourself "If I can overcome this, I can overcome anything."

You might believe you don't deserve the success

This can be a deep-seated belief from childhood, you might have been told that you couldn't do certain things in certain ways and therefore it sets up limiting beliefs in your internal belief system. To overcome this, you need to truly believe you are worthy of achieving what you set out to do. People will respect your decisions as they see you obtaining the goals you set out.

Don't compare your success to others!

Set your goals and stick to them. If you continually compare yourself to others, you'll always downplay your achievements, and this can result in giving up on the goal. They are not on the same journey as you. Most people who achieve are focused on their own personal journey, not that of others.

We all need to remember to congratulate each other for achievements and help everyone to achieve what they want to, it's a really rewarding way to work in business. It's about building each other up and not looking for the negative.

Quieten the internal dialogue!

Think of the journey you've been on. You're forever evolving and getting better, with minor blips along the way, it is an ongoing process. Well, that is how you need to look at your internal dialogue. If you've let it get louder and louder, it's going to take some time to get that 'nagging voice' to stop trying to trip you up. You must work out a plan to catch yourself talking yourself down and tell it that is not true. What I do when my internal voice is loud, is I say out loud, is that fact or are you making it up? Well, it stops in its tracks. I then have the headspace to rationally assess the situation. 9 times out of 10 these days, it's just whispering at me.

I believe we need to look after ourselves, we need to talk about these things, do not internalise them and be kind to ourselves. Remember the more you tell your inner dialogue that it's not correct, you get yourself back on track and it will become a whisper, just like mine, and your imposter syndrome will fade.


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