Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are? Do you shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt? Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a ‘fluke’, ‘no big deal’ or the fact that people just ‘like’ you? When you do succeed, do you think ‘Phew, I fooled them this time but I may not be so lucky next time’? Do you believe that other people (colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable you are?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, it’s likely that you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. Don’t worry you are not alone, 70% of us experience it!
The term Imposter Syndrome was introduced by doctors Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, it is a psychological pattern in which you doubt your accomplishments and have a persistent inner fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of your competence. People experiencing imposter syndrome are convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. They incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they are.
Imposter syndrome is more prevalent when you are a visible minority, such as women in a male dominated environment or a black or minority ethnic person amongst predominately white colleagues, however it can impact anyone, for example a white male colleague shared that he experienced imposter syndrome, being working class, and the first in his family to attend university, amongst his middle class Cambridge graduate colleagues.
So how do you overcome Imposter Syndrome?
Blow your own trumpet
Not to deafen others but so your music is heard. To overcome imposter syndrome, you have to become better at acknowledging your success and internalising it. A good way to do this is to be better at sharing your successes with others. e.g. If you receive positive customer feedback you could share it with senior colleagues to show them the impact you make, or you could create a monthly newsletter about the successes of your department, or go for an award to show how the work that you do compares to others. This is likely to have a positive impact on your career also, as it will improve your profile.
Define what success looks like for you
The only person that you should be comparing yourself to is you. We never truly know anyone else’s story, and if we are comparing ourselves to them, we are comparing how we feel inside with how others appear on the outside which isn’t a like for like comparison. Ask yourself am I better than I was yesterday, six months ago, a year ago? What does success look like for me, and how will I measure it.
List key accomplishments from the last 2-5 years
When you are travelling home from work, do you think about what has gone well, or do you focus on what you could have done better and what’s unfinished on the to-do list? It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your many successes, but they usually occur when you are working from your strengths and are things to do more of and build on. If we only focus on our weaknesses that doesn’t energise us, build our confidence levels or maximise what is working well for us. Spending some time listing your achievements, daily, monthly, annually can really help overcome your imposter syndrome and help you to acknowledge that you are enough.
Celebrate your failures
Failure can be painful but it’s one of our greatest teachers. No product or service was ever developed without experimentation, and ultimately many of those experiments fail. Each failure is a step closer to success, it teaches you something if you are open to looking for the lesson.
Don’t make Confidence Queen
My final tip is one for those in organisational life. We seem to celebrate confidence over competence at times. How can you help encourage an environment where we can all voice, acknowledge and listen to healthy self-doubt?