I had the privilege of speaking at an event yesterday evening. I shared my story around imposter syndrome. I believe it’s something we all suffer from at some stage in our career or life.
Imposter Syndrome is not something I have always been aware of, though it’s something that has been with me throughout my career. Effectively, it means that for one reason or another you feel like to don’t belong where you are. Self-doubt creeps in and you convince yourself that all of your achievements are down to luck and you will be found out eventually. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder and say “right, there’s been a terrible mistake. You’ve had your fun and now it’s time to leave it to the experts.”
How Imposter Syndrome shows up
Imposter syndrome has shown up when I changed jobs, was promoted to a senior position, when I set up my own business. The kind of thoughts I had going through my head were things like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not experienced enough” but what that really boils down to is “I am not enough”. I questioned what would people think and say about me, effectively putting my own self-worth in the hands of others. It’s a form of external validation, but our self-worth comes from ourselves. Specifically when I launched my business, the thought going through my mind was “there are so many other people already doing what I want to do, and making a success of it, who am I to think I can come along and compete with them all.” I doubted myself and my abilities.
Imposter syndrome shows up in other ways as well; ways you may not even notice. Like perfectionism; the sense that everything has to be perfect before putting it out there. You’re used to everything being easily, coming naturally to you, of achieving high levels of success. But now you’re trying something new and things are hard. So you tell yourself “I can’t do it” and you’re worries people will think you’re a fraud because you’re not brilliant at everything.
Are you putting off that event you want to run or program you want to launch? That’s procrastination. Putting ourselves out in the world means we are exposed. We are open to being judged by others. And maybe not everyone will like us, maybe not everyone will agree with us? Or maybe they’ll find out we’re an imposter?
Do you leave things til the last minute? You have a big client meeting coming up, or a proposal or a presentation to deliver. You don’t give yourself enough time to prepare because you don’t think you’re good enough. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… “well I messed that up, I knew I wasn’t good enough to do that anyway!”
The bad news
Some people may think that “I won’t feel like I’m an imposter any more once I’m successful” And it’s easy to believe that when you are “successful” (however you define success) you won’t feel like a fraud any more. We can convince ourselves that “once I lose the weight, once I move house, once I get the promotion… then I won’t feel like an imposter any more” I’m sorry to say that this is not true! It starts with your mindset and it starts today. You have to believe today that you deserve the accomplishments you have.
The Good News
But the good news is that if you feel like an imposter, you are not alone! Not only do we have some celebrities who openly speak about how they suffer from imposter syndrome, despite their success, there are also statistics that show that 70% of people (that’s men and women) will suffer from imposter syndrome at some stage in their careers.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is recognising it for what it is. You need to be aware of the voices in your head telling you you’re not good enough, you can’t do it, or catch yourself procrastinating or striving for perfection. Just notice them, catch the thoughts. Ask yourself this, is it true? Would you say say those things to your 10 year old self?
The next thing you can do is take action. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Stop procrastinating, and stop waiting for things to be perfect because they never will be. It might be something small, but take that next step forward towards reaching your goal. Learn from your mistakes; there is no such thing as failure, only degrees of success. Ask for help if you need it!
The last step is to believe in yourself. You are worthy of success, your accomplishments have brought you to where you are today. You have a message that people want to hear. You have a unique journey that has brought you to where you are. You have a story to tell, in a way that only you can. Write down your accomplishments, ask for positive feedback from clients and people you care about.
I believe that everyone can be whatever they want to be. Let’s change the script together. No more “fake it til you make it” which implies you are some sort of fraud. Instead, I want you to “Believe and you will Achieve”