Have you heard of Imposter Syndrome? Well I have it … I have never felt like I belong in any job I have done, I was always waiting for someone to find out, I couldn’t really do it and that I was a fake or a fraud … I would deflect compliments, self sabotage when anything was going good and was always living in fear of being seen as a failure … if you can relate to this, then you my friend may just have imposter syndrome too. I recently got asked to present to a group of property managers and immediately my old friend ‘Imposter Syndrome’ reared its ugly head. ‘Who are you to do this, you can’t be serious, why would you do that to yourself, you failed last time you did this, DON’T DO IT,’ it literally screamed at me as I accepted the offer. I honestly only heard about Imposter Syndrome when I was taking an Amy Porterfield course back in 2020. If you haven’t heard of Amy Porterfield, well let me tell you she’s an ordinary girl, with imposter syndrome, confidence and self-belief issues … and she overcame all of them and built herself a multi seven figure online marketing empire anyway … go take a listen to her podcast Online Marketing Made Easy, it changed my life. But after taking her course I quickly realised I had Imposter Syndrome and could finally put a name to something I had been feeling for many years … I instantly became well aware of why it had taken me 10 years to grow my business and make a profit and two years to start this podcast. So, let me break Imposter Syndrome down for you.
WHAT IS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?
Imposter Syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
It involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. It isn’t a diagnosis or a medical problem but rather a pattern of thinking that can lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk and missed opportunities. It reflects the core belief that you are an inadequate, incompetent, and a failure — despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and successful.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE IMPOSTER SYNDROME
A couple of key indicators you may very well have imposter syndrome are:
- You will play down your success
- You will hold back from doing your job because you think you are a fraud
- Can’t accept accolades
- Lack self confidence
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
HOW DOES IMPOSTER SYNDROME AFFECT YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
- For starters it instils self-doubt and low self-esteem – people will reject praise, downplay achievements and allow others to take the acclaim.
- Impedes career growth – sufferers may not demand or even expect a promotion or a pay rise, or may simply not push themselves forward at work.
- Hampers leadership and management – sufferers will feel vulnerable and fear being exposed which makes taking tough and unpopular decisions harder and showing strong leadership less likely.
- Restricts innovation and risk taking – fearing failure inhibits creativity and inventiveness
- Affects mental health – creating stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation.
MY PERSONAL STORY
Let me share a personal story with you. For 21 years .. yes you heard me right .. for 21 years I didn’t do any public speaking .. and I was a TV sports journalist at the time. I declined every guest speaking event I was invited to and avoided showing my face on tv as much as possible all because at a speaking event I did attend, I stuffed up massively, well to me it was massive. I kept getting a families name wrong and they won a lot of awards. By the end of the awards, my lovely red power suit was literally dripping with sweat, I was visibly shaking and my inner voice was screaming ‘don’t ever put yourself through this again, you can’t do this you are a fake and a phony’. And I didn’t for 21 years I avoided ever having to public speak again until last year. I was asked to present a talk to a group of property managers, I said yes, but inside my friend imposter syndrome was yelling, ‘don’t you dare do this, you stuffed up last time, you can’t do this’. But I did do it … and let me tell you I was so far out of my comfort zone I felt sick to my core before I got up to speak. As an ice breaker to the group I told them that same story in the hope that when I stumbled, stuttered or forgot my words and had to keep battling with my imposter syndrome during the presentation they might have some empathy for me. They might realise I’m imperfect, I’m vulnerable, I have fears and self-doubt, just like them. And what I found by sharing that story and my battle with imposter syndrome was many of the people in the room also suffered from it. So, if you feel like something is holding you back from living your best life, you are afraid to fail, or put yourself up for a promotion because you feel like a fraud, know you are not alone and what you are feeling has a very real name.
HOW CAN WE STOP FEELING LIKE AN IMPOSTER?
- Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. So start communicating and talking about it.
- Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
- Accentuate the positive. The good news is being a perfectionist means you care deeply about the quality of your work. The key is to continue to strive for excellence when it matters most, but don’t persevere over routine tasks and forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. Don’t attach too much emotion to it.
- Develop a healthy response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, ‘Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.’ Instead of beating yourself up for falling short, work out what you can learn and improve upon in the experience.
- Develop a new script. Become consciously aware of the conversation going on in your head when you’re in a situation that triggers your Impostor feelings. What is your internal script saying? You are stupid, you can’t do that, who are you to do that … or thinking, ‘Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,’ tell yourself ‘Everyone who starts something new feels this way in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.’
- Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful new management pitch or resolving a difficult dispute. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will ease your stress.
- Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually approval seeking from others … pat yourself on the back, be your own cheerleader.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering ‘winging it’ as proof of your flaws, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks.
Impostor syndrome doesn’t just impact individuals It also impacts the teams and businesses they are part of. So, if you are in a business owner or in a leadership role, watch out for team members who might be feeling out of their depth. They may appear to be performing well on the outside but struggling inside.
- Look for signs of loss of self-confidence and anxiety. They may be uncomfortable with praise and step back letting others take the acclaim. Or they may deflect it by attributing it to luck or the skills of others in the team.
- They may also become self-deprecating and express greater uncertainty such as ‘I am not sure what I am doing here…’, ‘I found this difficult but I had a go….’ or ‘I’m not sure this is what you were looking for….’.
- In addition, look out for a drop off in performance, emails being sent way before or after normal working hours, or an unusual delay in responding or making decisions caused by procrastination.
- To help members of your team you suspect may be suffering from imposter syndrome, education and coaching are key. Studies suggest that simply finding out about impostor syndrome and knowing that others feel it too, helps significantly. So, be open, discuss it and build a team culture where it’s ok to be unsure, not always to know the answer and take appropriate risks.
- Attribute success fairly; reward teamwork and creativity as well as hard work. Impostor syndrome drives a need for external validation. Lack of inclusion can make those feelings worse, so develop a strong inclusive team.
The annoying thing is my old foe, the Imposter, will always be screaming at me as I stand in front of a new group of property managers, but I’m going to do it anyway. Flying by the seat of my pants and faking it till I make it! Who’s joining me?