By Jules MacMillan.
Ever worried that you’re going to be found out? Feel like a fraud? Or feel undeserving of success? Then you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome. But don’t worry, you’re not alone, and there’s plenty we can do to overcome it. We share Cascade’s top 6 tips from our Overcoming Imposter Syndrome course…
First defined in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes, Imposter Syndrome is where we feel those pervading feelings of inadequacy or undeserved success which can lead to self-doubt. It’s where we feel out of our depth & that at any moment, we may be ‘found out’ for being a fraud.
Perhaps ironically, it is more often experienced by high achievers, as they tend to set the bar for themselves too high, with a driving desire to be perfect.
Luckily, it’s not something we feel all the time, but it is incredibly common. Researchers suggest around 70% of the population experience it as some point, which is why it’s so useful to have strategies to overcome it when it starts to sneak up on you.
Here are some of our top tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome:
- Power posing – in Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, ‘Your body language may shape who you are’, she suggests holding a high-powered pose (imagine standing like a superhero) for 2 minutes prior to an important event, such as a meeting or presentation. Her research shows it has a direct impact on lowering your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increasing your levels of testosterone, positively impacting performance.
- Positive affirmations – when imposter syndrome has you in its thrall it’s quite hard to list all the good things about yourself. So this tip is about collecting any good comments or feedback that people give you, verbally or via email, in one place so that when you do feel that way you can read it and remember that you are good enough.
- Have a conversation – a curious quirk of imposter syndrome can be summed up by a term from social psychology, ‘Pluralistic Ignorance.’ This is where we believe we are alone in our thinking. In this case, around feeling inadequate, or ‘less than’ in regard to others. As a result, we don’t tell anyone about how we feel which, in turn can make those thoughts and feelings even more debilitating. One of the simplest ways to start to overcome imposter syndrome, is to talk about it with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor. In doing so we begin to realise that most people experience it in some way too. By owning it in this way, we can lessen the impact those thoughts have on us. We realise we are not alone, and that how we feel is simply part of the human condition.
- Help others – in focusing on helping others, it can distract us from thinking too much about ourselves. You could potentially coach or mentor someone at work; offer to do some voluntary work, or simply lend a good ear to friend who needs to talk.
- Learn from your mistakes – we all know this one, but sometimes it’s a challenge to sit with any mistakes or failures we have made and be able to turn them around into positives. Personally, I think it’s OK to feel a bit rubbish after a perceived or actual failure – so first off, don’t start beating yourself up for feeling bad. The trick is not to wallow in that feeling for too long. There needs to come a point when you draw the line and start to focus on more constructive thoughts such as: ‘OK, that happened, now what can I learn from it?’ and
‘What could I do differently in the future to improve?’
- Own your success – one clear sign that you are experiencing imposter syndrome is when we don’t quite believe we are deserving of our own success. We might instead put it down to luck or be self-deprecating about what we have achieved. So even if it’s only in the privacy of your own mind, start to celebrate your successes. Give yourself credit for a job well done. You could even keep a journal of those wins to remind yourself – you do deserve your own success and you are indeed good enough.
Jules MacMillan has been a Coach & Trainer in the field of People Development since 2004 and is Managing Director of Cascade Learning Ltd. For more information please visit www.cascadelearning.co.uk