Imposter Syndrome? Shatter it now with these 3 Simple Tips
Do you feel afraid to speak up in a meeting? In a group of people, worrying that what you say will be ignored, not good enough, silly?
According to the Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome is “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work,” and it’s something that’s often diagnosed in women. The concept was developed in the 1970s and still has quite a hold on many of us in the world of work.
When we experience feeling like a fraud, it can cause us to stay frozen in fear and not take action on our goals or a work project. How can we be afraid and do it anyway? Does “fake it until you make it” really work?
As a management consultant and former chief customer officer, I have worked with men and women seeking to grow in their careers but holding themselves back because they don’t believe in themselves, are embarrassed by their accomplishments or don’t want to outshine their bosses. One of the key principles I lead my team with is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is how we grow and learn. What works with “faking it” is the skill and confidence that come with practicing something new as we stretch into uncharted territory. However, there’s also something much deeper at play here — what we believe about ourselves.
In his book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, Gay Hendricks brings up an excellent point: We get to keep our limitations if we argue for them, meaning arguing that something isn’t possible for us. What if, instead, we argued for what’s possible?
Imagine you’re asked to give a presentation on a topic you’ve never taught before, and you have two days to prepare. What immediately comes to mind? For some, it’s a piece of cake; they’ve already practiced public speaking many times. No problem. For others, it inspires instant panic — “Who am I to be the expert on this topic?” or “What if they find out that I really don’t know what I’m talking about?”
According to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, an estimated 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. I was speaking with a successful executive in high tech and was surprised to hear that he sometimes feels like an imposter as a leader. Feeling like an imposter is a natural human experience for many of us. Where does this phenomenon come from after all? Much of it we learn from others — in our family, in our culture or from direct experience.
Many of us throughout our careers had had that one manager who made us feel small, inept or unworthy, right when we thought we were showing up as our best selves. This can erode our confidence in who we are as skilled professionals. However, there’s good news — we can overcome this with some practice and support.
Below are three keys to overcoming imposter syndrome that have worked for my team and me.
It’s up to us to remind ourselves that we can stretch into something new even when it’s uncomfortable while also allowing ourselves to be okay with failure. Everyone fails at one time or another. Inventor James Dyson had 5,126 failures before inventing his now best-selling vacuum. Failure is how many of the greatest inventions, stories and advancements in technology, science and humanity have happened. It’s also often how teams have breakthroughs; companies are formed, and the best-selling books are written.
1. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others And Get Clear About What You Want.
When you start to look at yourself as a unique individual who has skills and experience to offer, you can stay focused on your own path and what you want to learn and contribute. Comparison will take the wind out of your sails; however, focusing on developing your own passions and skills can propel you forward.
2. Focus On Your Strengths.
In my experience as a leader, I’ve found that many people aren’t aware of some of their biggest strengths. There are a variety of free resources online to help you assess your strengths and what skills you want to develop. You can also work with a private coach to help you really look at your self-reflection, how it impacts your goals and how the world sees you as a professional. Getting feedback from your colleagues and friends can also be a great way to collect data from those who have seen you in action.
3. Celebrate Your Wins
If you don’t see the value you offer, you probably aren’t celebrating your wins. Celebrating even the smallest win, such as a customer call that went really well and ended with a happy and smiling customer, can boost your confidence and help you see that you’re adding value and making a difference at work.
Find some fun ways to celebrate during the workday: Blast your favorite song. Even better, dance it out. Call a friend and share your great news. Write down what you accomplished and keep a list of your wins.
With some new habits and self-discovery, you can shatter your imposter syndrome. Finding a mentor or coach also can support you in seeing your strengths as you grow, and it can catapult you on your path to success in your career. Imposter syndrome is a natural experience in a world that often measures success by specific outputs that can be a moving target. Staying focused on you and what you have to offer can be the steady compass that navigates you to your most confident and successful self.