How to Manage Impostor Syndrome
Do you ever feel as though you don’t deserve your professional accomplishments? Or do you fear being exposed as a fraud or pretender at any moment? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, does self-doubt tell you that you haven’t earned your place at the table?
You’re not alone.
The first study into this phenomenon, by Psychologist Pauline Clance, focused on the experiences of undergraduates. But since then, it’s been firmly established that a huge proportion of highly successful people, regardless of race, gender, occupation, or age, experience Impostor Syndrome; the belief that one’s achievements and success are undeserved or have been achieved illegitimately.
Some common thoughts associated with Impostor Syndrome include:
“I’m a fake” – a belief that you have somehow hoodwinked the world around you and that at any moment people will realise your lack of talent or skill
“I got lucky” – attributing success to timing or other external circumstances beyond your control rather than your own talent or skill e.g. “I must have been the only one who applied”
Often, highly skilled and accomplished people tend to think that other people around them are just as capable as they are. This leads them to believe that they shouldn’t be singled out as deserving of praise or recognition. Impostor Syndrome can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, anxiety and even depression. It can also prevent people from sharing their ideas, speaking up in professional situations or pursuing new opportunities.
How to manage impostor syndrome
1. Talk it Over
Many people who experience Impostor Syndrome worry that if they talk about their professional performance, their worst fears will be confirmed. But Impostor Syndrome is perpetuated by the concept of Pluralistic Ignorance. This is the idea that we each doubt ourselves privately, whilst also believing that we’re alone in feeling that way.
Instead, discussing how we work, the professional challenges we face and how we overcome them with a coach, peers or colleagues can show us how common these thoughts and feelings are. Discovering that others experience the same sense of insecurity and self-doubt will go a long way to preventing you treating those thoughts as reality.
2. Focus on positive feedback
We all have our own inner critic. But could we turn our attention away from that nagging voice, and focus instead on more positive experiences?
Try making a list of your achievements and make an effort to record praise from others around you. Regularly reflecting on this positive feedback will help keep that inner self-critic at bay.
3. Adjust your view
We all make mistakes. But rather than seeing failure as confirmation of everything Impostor Syndrome has told you, try to see it instead as an opportunity to grow and develop. Consider what you can learn from this situation. Could you move forward by targeting specific behaviours or skills that will help you tackle things differently in the future? This empowers you to use failures and setbacks positively rather than allowing them to feed the voice of Impostor Syndrome.
Adjusting your perception of failure is a key part of developing a Growth Mindset …
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.
This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Professor Carol Dweck
Don’t let Impostor Syndrome hold you back. One to one coaching can help you challenge your inner-critic. Find out more.