12 Jun Afraid of Being ‘Found Out’? Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a term that is frequently bandied around, but what does it actually mean? Well, in short, it is a term that is normally used to refer to high achievers, usually (though not exclusively) women, who have a persistent fear of being ‘found out’. It can feel as if you have the word ‘Fraud’ stamped on your forehead in neon letters for all to see.
If there is one recurring theme that has cropped up in my Coaching practice it would be this one, frequently from extremely accomplished, articulate and ‘together’ women who you would never believe felt anything other than in control of their lives and careers.
So whilst recognising that Imposter Syndrome flourishes in the most unexpected quarters, what can be done? In my experience, there isn’t a one size fits all solution, as the roots of these feelings can stem from all sorts of circumstances, but there are certainly some strategies that can be adopted to minimize the perception that you are not worthy of the success you have achieved or that one day someone is going to call you out on the role you are undertaking.
Many women in the public eye have been open about succumbing to this syndrome – Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, Kate Winslet, to name but a few, and similarly amongst my own peer group – including myself. So, what can be done? Here are some suggestions I’ve used myself, and that have been documented by others who have researched this thorny subject:
- Silence your ‘Inner Chatter’ – you know, that annoying voice inside your head that tells you, often and quite definitely, that you aren’t worthy, you can’t do it, others will be far better than you…the list is endless. Voicing these thoughts can help to make sense of the chatter, and quite often articulating them makes them seem less scary. So, find a friend, a mentor, a trusted colleague – someone who will listen without judgement and help you make sense of the chatter – and talk to them. This should at the very least help turn the volume down a notch.
- Accept praise. How many times have you been given praise, or congratulated on an achievement, only to dismiss it or make a self -deprecating remark? Next time someone says well done, take a moment to think if it is deserved, and if it is – then accept it graciously! Positive affirmation is a great was to shore up a feeling of self- belief.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. Received wisdom is that men are far more likely to take a risk with something new whereas women will take the view that they can’t do something because they’ve never done it before, haven’t had the training…the list of excuses can be many and varied! If you never put yourself forward at work, never let your talents shine through, never say what it is that you want to do – how will anybody know? So be prepared to speak up, to volunteer for that responsibility, to ask for the training you need so that you can move forward, and sometimes be prepared to take a risk. Ask yourself –
What’s the worst that can happen? And more positively, think how great you’ll feel when you succeed!
- Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes we make mistakes, or we upset someone, or we don’t win a pitch, or we don’t manage our team as well as we might. That’s life, and most of these situations don’t happen with malice aforethought. So, look at the situation honestly, think about what you can learn from it…. and then move on. Many women are great at over analysing a situation, waking in the wee small hours to go over and over it and agonising about what they could have done better. Try not to waste your energy in this way and rather channel it into remembering what you have done well, your achievements, your successes, the bright spots in your day.
- Develop techniques and tricks to help you cope with those times when the imposter voice is shouting at you. Call it displacement activity, what you will, but find something that reduces stress, calms or distracts you: deep breathing, practice Mindfulness, go for a walk around the park at lunchtime, buy yourself a colouring book, indulge in some retail therapy – whatever it is that enables you to get some perspective on a situation and helps release those feel-good hormones.
- And finally – Remember – you are not alone! Look around you at your colleagues and friends. You think they are all sailing through life, brimming with confidence, knowing exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there? Wrong. They all have their insecurities, doubts and worries. Knowing this might make it easier to recognise and celebrate your own achievements and accomplishments, and empower you to reach your personal and professional goals.
Liz Watt : BLT Executive Coaching | For further information please contact Julie.Selby@womeninrecruitment.org |