Don’t let imposter syndrome stand in your way

Posted on Posted in Business Etiquette Workshop

Learn to be your own best friend rather than your own worst enemy

Have you ever felt imposter syndrome? It’s that feeling of massive self-doubt that tells you you’re not really good enough and that you shouldn’t be where you are, doing what you’re doing. It’s a lack of self-confidence that hits particularly when opportunity knocks with a great promotion or a new job.

It has nothing to do with your reality, which is that you’re totally brilliant and 100% capable of the opportunity that is being presented to you.

Women are more likely to suffer from the lack of confidence that creates imposter syndrome than men are.  You know this story: a woman goes into a store and tries on a pair of trousers in her usual size and it doesn’t fit. She immediately thinks, “Oh no, I’ve gained weight.” The same thing happens to a man but he thinks, “There’s something wrong with these trousers.”

It’s a fact that women internalise failure, taking it deep inside themselves where it kills their confidence and does real harm, while men externalise it, leaving it outside where it can’t touch their confidence. This is one of the reasons we women are so quick to think we’re not good enough, giving rise to imposter syndrome, particularly when something good happens.

The truth is that we tend to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves which creates an environment in which imposter syndrome thrives.

These unrealistic expectations are bred by perfectionism. Because perfection is unattainable, we never feel good enough and so we become our own worst enemies.

Most successful women feel imposter syndrome at some stage on their journey to the top. It’s a real phenomenon that tends to affect women whose work comes under constant review by a subjective audience – our bosses, our peers, our juniors.

The surest way to overcome imposter syndrome is to pay the most attention to our own reviews of ourselves, but then we absolutely have to learn a more positive and accurate internal script and cultivate a strong sense of self-confidence. We need to learn to accept the fact that while we may make mistakes, we simply cannot let them cripple us. The fact is that we all do a great deal more right than we do wrong.

Think of professional athletes and how they deal with losing the big game or the big race. They watch the tape of the game, pay attention to where they went wrong, correct it, and get back into the game using their previous mistakes to improve their scores. We need to create such strategies for ourselves so that we don’t allow imposter syndrome to hijack our successes.

The key is to recognise imposter syndrome when it’s happening and examine the reasons you’re feeling it.

You may be afraid of success. Equally, you may be afraid of failure. Sometimes you don’t really want the promotion because you’ve been following a path that isn’t really right for your authentic self.  There may be a host of other reasons.

When you’re presented with a professional opportunity like a new job or a promotion, you’re also presented with the opportunity for self-reflection and you should take the time to think about what really matters to you.

If you’re simply having a quite normal moment of self-doubt, don’t let it spiral into imposter syndrome. Learn to silence negative self-talk and amplify the positives, but also do some work on understanding that you do deserve your success.

It’s always a useful exercise to review the path that led you to the opportunity being presented. Really think about it without being self-critical. Count your education, your skills, your experience and your supporters. Look at every success you’ve achieved on your way to being offered the opportunity until you can see that you do indeed deserve success.

You definitely did something right and its time for you to get your head around that and own your success. As soon as you do that, you can hold your head up high and go out with confidence to claim your due.

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