We’ve all experienced it. That nagging voice at the back of your head that says ‘you’re not good enough/ knowledgeable enough/strong enough and pretty soon everyone is going to find out’.
You’ll be exposed.
Ridiculed for the terrible actor you are…. Except you aren’t.
In all likelihood you’ve reached the point in your career, relationships or training that you’re at because you’ve worked hard, gathered skills and worked your way there.…
So why does it still feel like we’re faking it at the moment of success?
And is it even a problem?
After all, it keeps you moving forward even if it is just to avoid being ‘found out’…
Whilst there is nothing wrong with maintaining a realistic view of your own capabilities, as Bertrand Russel said:
‘The problem with the world is that the people who know a lot are so full of doubt and the people who know little are so certain of themselves’.
Think back to a time when you were more naïve, perhaps as a teenager, whilst studying or taking the first steps in your career. There were probably times when you bit off way more than you could chew, be that professionally or personally.
Or times when you thought you had all the answers and were more than happy to share them, only to work out later you were wrong…
But how much did you learn from these experiences?
If we spend our lives assuming we aren’t good enough… that we shouldn’t share our opinions or work with the world in case we are ‘found out’ for not being an expert…how many growth opportunities will we miss?
Imposter syndrome isn’t just stressful and opportunity-sapping; it’s also been proven to worsen mental health, heightening feelings of depression.
By constantly doubting ourselves and the quality of our output, we occupy bandwidth that might be channelled more productively – or pleasurably – elsewhere.
As for work, it leads to diminished job satisfaction, slower career advancement and even stagnation by staying in a role that no longer serves you because you can’t see another option.
But you can beat it!
Imposter syndrome is not a personality trait, it’s a tendency. This means that we all have a capacity for it but some of us ‘tend’ towards it more strongly.
If you believe your abilities are subject to change – i.e you have a ‘Growth Mindset’ – you can use mindset techniques to consciously change patterns of belief around unworthiness.
In a Growth Mindset culture there are no ‘imposters’.
When you feel that imposter voice creeping into your mind try these simple techniques to re-frame your successes:
1. Look For The ‘Why’
Next time you’re faced with a new challenge or role and you feel the panic descend, take a step back and ask why you were selected for this task or position.
Did you knock a similar project out of the park last year?
Have you got specialist knowledge of the area?
This removes emotions from the equation and provides you with a more accurate representation of the situation.
2. Don’t Associate Your Successes With Extrinsic Factors
‘I was lucky’, ‘I had help…’
A symptom of imposter syndrome is the tendency to palm off your successes onto extrinsic factors.
When someone congratulates you on a job well done, make it your mission to just say ‘thank you’.
Internalise that credit, you earned it!
3. Acknowledge Your Efforts
Stop pretending it wasn’t hard work.
It can feel ‘exposing’ to admit to people that we’ve worked hard to achieve something – like we aren’t good enough without the work.
The secret? No-one is.
Name me one top tier athlete who was so naturally gifted they didn’t graft for success.
Success and hard work go hand in hand – own your effort!
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