avoid the imposter syndromeMost likely you’ve experienced this feeling at some stage. Wow, I’ve had a lot of luck in my career, or ‘I’m going to be found out soon that ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’. You’ve worked hard, you studied hard – you actually may be at the forefront of your field. So why do so many of us feel like frauds?

This is called the “Imposter Syndrome” or “Imposter Phenomenon”. And if you’ve had this – you’re in good company – most of us have it from time to time – even Jodie Foster wanted to give back her Oscar!

I come across this often when coaching on career changes or those wanting to take a leap of faith and start a new business, or perhaps they are looking at applying for a promotion.

I even caught myself saying in my head when I was asked by a colleague to apply for a Board position, “eeek I am a fraud”. What would be the point as I do not really have the skills for the role.

Interestingly, everyone has it at some point. Research suggests up to 70% of professionals have suffered from it sometime in their career. It occurs in both genders however more often and worse in women. It is scary and can be debilitating on individuals and teams. Perhaps this is from our (excuse the generalisation) nature to be inclusive and bring everyone in (“hey – we’re all great”). We need to help each other work on this as it gives individuals confidence and opportunity to live up to their potential.

In my coaching, I like to firstly work on creating an understanding of the patterns of behaviour that may be holding you back. Sometimes imposter syndrome may show up as procrastination, being indecisive, fears, ‘workaholism’ or the need for perfection. If we take perfection perse, common sense says it is never achievable so developing strategies to manage these expectations will be important in shifting your thinking. You don’t have to be 100% competent to be confident!

A starting point may be asking your self the following questions:

  • Are you one of the 70% relating to this article? Does it sound like you?
  • If so, what is the imposter syndrome stopping you from doing?
  • In the perfect world with no imposter syndrome, what would you start doing?
  • Challenge yourself to make a list of your achievements consider:
    • What are your successes
    • What challenges have you overcome
    • What are your strengths?

Next time you self-doubt your success or yourself, tell yourself it is OK, it will always rear its head in some form, self-awareness is the most powerful tool. The important thing is to accept and have a strategy on how you will manage the negative voice in the head. You may create a cheer squad in your head or a song, or a word, a saying or a picture that reignites the belief in yourself. Remember to be the cheer squad for others, so we can celebrate success together of being our best selves.