June 12, 2023

A Guide to Imposter Syndrome

Featured image for “A Guide to Imposter Syndrome”

So after reading many posts on this topic, and witnessing people around me suffer the effects of this issue, I am putting it out there, and bringing Imposter Syndrome (IS) to the forefront. 

What is Imposter Syndrome?

For some, Imposter Syndrome is a thought that may have been sitting in the back of their minds for months, just waiting to pounce. 

For others, Imposter Syndrome is as much a part of your daily life as is buying a morning coffee from your favourite coffee shop. 

Even though you may consider yourself as being a confident person, Imposter Syndrome may be an ever-present force in your life. 

Imposter Syndrome is the belief that you are not qualified for a task, job, promotion, or even parenthood, despite repeating evidence to the contrary, such as working hard, creating valuable experiences, having dedicated education, successfully growing your own business, or raising great kids.

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome 

According to some of our Facebook friends, Imposter Syndrome is this constant feeling of phoniness, a feeling that you don’t deserve the compliments or the successes that you have received or been awarded, and often putting objective proof down to mere ‘luck’. 

This is often accompanied by the feeling of fear, failure, a fake, and that one-day people will wake up and know you’re a fake, and that you will be ‘found out’. 

a strong sense of self-awareness gives you a realistic understanding of yourself
Afraid of being discovered you’re a phony

Resoundingly, a common thread in most of your posts and messages allude to the fact that you/we/me/us actually don’t believe that what we have achieved in our life is worth celebrating or considered successful. We hold off telling others what we have achieved for fear of ‘grandstanding’ ourselves or subjecting ourselves to ‘tall poppy syndrome’. 

We think that other women won’t want to hear our story, or that our story could even be considered to be an inspiration to others. 

There are many reasons why Imposter Syndrome is present for us, but what can we do about it? Well, as much as it is easier said than done, the first step to not feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like one! Come on, you’ve got this! 

Related Reading  S.M.A.R.T. Goals

“Our thoughts, yes this is true, our own thoughts, are the only barriers and the only difference between those who do not feel like an imposter, with those who do.”

Kerryn Martorana

How common is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a lot more common than perceived. Even successful people have bouts of uncertainty, undeserving, and feeling like a fake.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg | Wiki Commons

Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Facebook (now Meta), writes in her book entitled, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead –

“Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”

Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?
Tom Hanks | Wiki Commons

In an interview in 2016, Tom Hanks admitted to being a fraud. He confesses,

No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’

Tom Hanks – 2 times Academy Award Winner

10 Simple Steps to Fight Imposter Syndrome

Here are some quick steps to have you moving away from thinking like an Imposter, to moving towards thinking Positively and Adeptly.

1. Look For The Evidence That You Are A Fraud

Chances are, you don’t have any!

Challenge these unhelpful thoughts with some real-time resilience techniques such as “That’s not true because……”. 

For example, the next time you have a negative thought pattern, challenge yourself with “That’s not true because I have done this work many times before and did it successfully!”.  

2. Are You Falling Into The Trap Of Mindreading?

This is the belief that you know what other people are thinking.

Try ‘reframing’ statements to yourself. Such as, “The reason they asked me that question is because THEY may be unsure and they need my help. They are not challenging my knowledge of the topic.”

3. Recognise When You Are “Catastrophising”

Catastrophising is like a runaway train that runs express through every possible station. 

Related Reading  Reflections and Resolutions: Looking Back to Move Forward:

Thoughts very quickly move from “I am feeling a little overwhelmed and should ask for clarity”, to “I shouldn’t be in this job, they will realise I shouldn’t be here, I will be fired, I won’t be able to pay my mortgage, the bank will repossess my home, no one will want to be in a relationship with me and I will die alone!” 

It is important to come to terms with your struggles
Feeling overwhelmed

All from a conversation that started from feeling a little overwhelmed!

Protect yourself, and have a contingency thought plan in place.  Having a bulletproof script up your sleeve and ready to go, will enable you to say to yourself “When X happens, I will think Y.” 

For example, should I need to ask for clarity, I will think “That’s a sign I am taking initiative.” 

4. Practice A Growth Mindset

A fixed mindset says, “this is it; this is all I’ve got!” 

A growth mindset says,

“Anything is possible with a little hard work and a different thought process.”

5. Assume The Position You Want

If you want to be a great partner, mum, business owner or CEO – believe it, act it, own it, live it, breath it and see it. Visualisation is everything!

6. Acknowledge The Power Of Your Story!

“Own the power of your story, whatever it may be.”

Your story provides emotional depth, vividness and realness that allows people to connect to you. It brings others along for the journey. Immersing yourself in the ‘story’ is also a great way to overcome the effects of Imposter Syndrome and those correlating rigid thought patterns. 

Relaying a story assists you to ‘get out of your head’ and into the moment.

7. Exercise Empowerment

One of my all-time favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Don’t give consent, be empowered. Listen to the song “I am Women”, by Helen Reddy.

8. Self-awareness, Self Management

Understand your triggers and be aware of the discomfort of stepping outside your comfort zone.  The discomfort is not a threat, don’t withdraw from it or avoid it. Instead, lean into the discomfort and broaden your focus. See the situation from multiple perspectives and see it for what it is. 

Related Reading  Top 5 Techniques for Better Decision-Making

All with no hidden agenda.

9. Be Mindfully Curious

Seriously, be kind to yourself! 

Be curious, open-minded, self-kin, non-self-judgmental, and be in the moment. 

Observe your negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity.

Be understanding. 

Do practice self-compassion! Do know that you are not in isolation with this. Imposter syndrome is a shared human experience, something that other people experience too.

You are not alone.  

10. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Remember how we think about a situation, or event, controls how we feel about it and we behave. 

Recognise when you are thinking ‘Imposter Syndrome’ language and know YOU have control over it. It doesn’t have control over you! 

If we are honest with ourselves, I think we all suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is this.

We can’t ALL be imposters.

Isn’t it time that you/we/me/us stood up and believed that we aren’t one of them!

Lastly, reach out if you need help.

(Photo illustration by Franziska Barczyk)

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