This week I’m talking about imposter syndrome.
Do you have moments when you feel out of place, don’t feel good enough, and expect to fail? It can be absolutely crippling, and stop you taking the next step to grow your business or career.
We work with this a lot as communication coaches, because at the heart of this mindset is a simple truth: your most important audience is you. If you cannot or do not communicate well with yourself, you will always be in your own way.
So we have some tips to share to help you start to overcome imposter syndrome.
WAITING TO BE FOUND OUT
But first, let me just say I have so much sympathy for anyone struggling with imposter syndrome. It took me nearly thirty years to figure out why I had this low-grade fear all the time.
The fear that today might be the day I got found out.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew I could do my job. I just felt that I was punching above my weight at any given time. I realise now that it was because I was always so much younger than my professional peers, sometimes younger than the people working for me.
You see, I first worked on a news desk at the age of 15. I had my first editorship at 19, I was a middle manager in a FTSE Top 10 by the age of 25, and consulting global companies by the time I was 30. Everyone around me was older, and they seemed sassier, more confident, so sure of themselves.
It’s hard to describe – but I felt as if I were dressing up and playing a part. And deep down I worried that a real grown-up would return and demand their clothes back.
Even writing about it now makes me feel the same anxiety – even though I’m now older than I want to admit!
There are a number of ways to address imposter syndrome, including professional therapy (which this is not). Here are a few things I recommend, partly as a communication coach and also from my own experience.
FOCUS ON FACTS NOT FEARS
Remember I said I knew I could do my job? I knew this because my work was published and well-received, or I got promoted, or my clients asked me to do more with them. The evidence for what I could do was right there. Look for your evidence, and shine a light on that instead of your self-doubts.
It might help to build a tangible body of evidence. Keep those emails from people thanking you for a great job. Make a note when someone tells you that you’re a star. Ask customers and clients for feedback. Frame your qualifications and put them on the wall. Keep all these totems and look at them as often as you need to.
Pause and look at your wins. Don’t shrug them off like a compliment you don’t quite know how to accept, or rush to the next thing. Take some time to recognise what you are achieving.
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
Choosing the words you use is a huge subject on its own, but when it comes to mindset there is little in your toolkit quite so powerful. Try to step back and listen to how you talk to yourself, and how you frame your message to others. Do you encourage yourself or talk yourself down? Do you implicitly apologise or do you explicitly serve?
DON’T FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT
I know this advice is meant positively, and to a degree we all put on our game face even when we’re not truly feeling it.
The issue I have with the old maxim ‘fake it til you make it’ is that it takes you away from your authenticity. It suggests that you are pretending – and what is an imposter but someone who pretends to be something they are not? The language of fakery simply reinforces the self-doubt, on a subconscious level at least.
ALLOW YOURSELF ROOM TO GROW
Whichever side of the desk I’ve been sitting in a recruitment interview, I’ve actively sought people or roles with room to grow. I’ve followed the 80-20 rule – enough skill and experience to deliver, but enough of a development gap to make this job interesting and satisfying.
Having room to grow doesn’t make you an imposter.
COMPARE YOURSELF TO NO ONE
We live in a very shiny world now, thanks to social media, and our desire for perfection can be all-consuming. How easy is it to feel like an imposter when all you see online is shinier, glossier, more successful? Even though we know lots of the online promises we see are unrealistic, part of our brain processes another reason to believe we can’t be successful.
Remember, the only story you need to tell is your own.
We’d love to hear your tips for dealing with imposter syndrome – drop us a comment below, or come and see us on Facebook – our virtual kettle is always on, and the welcome is warm.
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Until next time – have a great week!