Do you have Imposter Syndrome?
"One day I'm going to be found out!"
"If only they knew...."
"I can't believe people think I'm good at this stuff!"
"I don't think I can do this"
"It's all pretend, I don't really know what I'm doing!"
"I feel like I'm making it up as I go along!"
Have any of these thoughts ever gone through your mind? Have you ever found yourself wondering how you came to be doing what you are doing and find yourself feeling that it must have been through luck or good timing rather than your hard work and competence?
If so, welcome to the club that 90% of the population have been a part of at some point in their career! The club is... The Imposter's club! Requirements for membership are that you feel like an Imposter, a fraud, someone who doesn't deserve to be in the position you are in, or doing what you are doing and that one day you will be "found out"!
The term was coined by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978*. In their research paper, they focused on the impact of Imposter Syndrome on high achieving women. However, I believe that many men also experience it. Many of the men I have coached and worked closely with as a consultant, have demonstrated signs of Imposter Syndrome and a few have admitted experiencing it when I have described it to them. For some, that admission was like a huge weight lifted off their shoulders, when they realised they were not alone!
So, what is Imposter Syndrome? It occurs when you feel that your successes are down to some factor other than your contribution and your abilities, despite evidence to the contrary. You wonder how you got to where you are and that one day someone is going to realise you are not as competent/successful/knowledgeable etc. as they perceive you to be. In short, it stems from feelings of self-doubt.
What causes Imposter Syndrome?
- A drive to live up to high standards set by yourself or others (society, your organisation, peers etc.),
- A desire to achieve perfection,
- Pressure (often perceived) from others....colleagues, friends, family etc.
- Lack of confidence,
- Comparing yourself with others,
- Being faced with an outcome that is different to the one you expected.
How can you manage your Imposter Syndrome?
Experiencing Imposter Syndrome can cause you a huge amount of stress and discomfort, if you a) don't recognise that is what you are experiencing and b) aren't able to take action to deal with it. It can cause sleepless nights, tension, disruption to relationships, fear and irrational behaviour. However, once you can put a label to the feelings you are experiencing, it suddenly becomes more manageable and you can develop a strategy to deal with it.
Try these 5 steps to help you manage your Imposter Syndrome:
1. Focus on facts.
What evidence do you have to reinforce the fact that you can do this and that you do deserve to be where you are today?
2. Accept failure.
What is wrong with getting it wrong sometimes? Sometimes 100% is not necessary, but it is important to learn from the times things go wrong, that is what takes you forward.
3. Be kind to yourself.
Give yourself permission to be proud of what you have achieved, not in comparison to anyone else, but just because YOU achieved it. Reward yourself when things go well and say "well done me!"
4. Talk back to yourself.
Listen to the voice in your head that is telling you you're not good enough, you don't deserve it or you can't do something and say "Thanks for your point of view, but actually, I am good enough, I do deserve it and I am going to do it". It is amazing how talking positively to yourself can make you feel.
5. Get your timing right.
Sometimes you will feel like an imposter, that you don't fit in, that you perhaps are out of your depth....so recognise those times as different to the norm and in the minority, and react appropriately.
Remember, 90% of the population have experienced Imposter Syndrome at some point, so you are part of a fantastic club when it happens to you. It's not a bad thing and it doesn't last forever, if you follow these 5 steps.
*Clance, Pauline Rose; Imes, Suzanne Ament (1978). "The Impostor Phenomenon Among High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention"
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