Imposter syndrome – how are you feeling?
After building a successful career in recruitment for nearly 15 years I have made the brave decision (as someone would say) to listen to my inner voice and change my career direction. Only a few months ago I joined a global company to help people who have lost their jobs or are at risk of redundancy to navigate change and uncertainty and build a bridge between their old careers and their new vibrant story. This new exciting meaningful role is "officially" what summarises an inner journey I embarked on three years ago when I began my coaching qualification path.
I would compare this path to an emotional rollercoaster which encouraged me to question certain aspects of my life, and deal with some blockages that I thought I had removed with life experience and years of psychotherapy. One of those aspects of my life was certainly my career and how it was happening within the context of my life.
I came to realise - with pain - that I stopped finding my job fulfilling and that I was still using different ways to convince myself that I was on the right track. I (my ego to be precise) experienced pain, confusion and loss because I had dedicated so many years to a career that I had really enjoyed until something stopped working for me. What kept me on that path for a while even after my coaching qualification was my desire to help people make a change that would impact their lives - not just their jobs. Yet, my inner voice wouldn't cease to scream, and I would still feel like I wasn't in the right place.
I would spend nights overthinking about multiple scenarios and feeling anxious and lost. I spent quite some time feeling trapped in my own cage until I took the courage to bring down the noise of my ego and started my own coaching practice, working with some private clients around career change and mindset. By doing more and more of this, I felt more driven and fulfilled. By building my confidence in the process, I felt liberated, more authentic, I was giving myself the permission to change my mind. I felt more empowered to make more conscious and effective career decisions such as moving away from recruitment and stepping into a career transition consultant.
Career change can be a very self-absorbed process. We tend to ask ourselves big philosophical questions such as Who am I? What am I here for? What's my purpose? What's my passion? Why would anyone pay attention to me? What do I have to offer? How do I get them to take me seriously? This constant about "I" and "me" is what often can keep us trapped when it comes to the concept of value until we shift our focus to other people, and how they can benefit from our help.
I have come all the way to this bright new side where my mission in my new role makes my life journey more meaningful and exciting. Yet, the beginning has not been that easy, and the process felt at times more tense emotionally - I'm in a much better place but I'm still recovering from what is called "imposter syndrome", especially when it comes to working with people in the field of mindset and anxiety.
Imposter syndrome is the experience that many high-achieving people have of feeling a fraud, of not deserving their success, a belief that you're not as good as you've presented yourself to be, and people will eventually find out.
Studies have shown that it affects women more often than men and those from minority groups.
How does imposter syndrome manifest?
- you downplay your achievement
- you discount praise
- you crumble when you receive negative feedback
- you dwell on mistakes
- you please people
- you're afraid to take risks
- you strive for perfection
- you put immense pressure on yourself to prove yourself
Lots of people out there feel this way - and not just in their careers. They just don't want to disclose it because of fear of exposure.
60% of executives say the imposter syndrome affected their ability to lead.
If unchecked, the imposter syndrome can cause serious consequences such as:
- missed opportunities
- waste of energy
People who have imposter syndrome tend to prioritise their self-esteem (which has to be earned) over self-worth (which is innate). We have been educated in a culture of conditional self-esteem - not intrinsic self-worth - hence why we often tend to see our accomplishments as our identity, and we constantly feel anxious about meeting expectations of others and of ourselves. The philosopher Alan Watts put it like this "insecurity is the result of trying to be secure". In the pursuit of self-esteem, we often become more increasingly aware of that which we lack.
How do you combat imposter syndrome?
Validate it. Acknowledge your negative thoughts and feelings. What recurrent thoughts do you have? What emotions are you experiencing? What language are you using when talking to yourself?
Track it. Notice when this experience happens. Where are you? Who are you with? What has triggered those thoughts and feelings? Think about all the details.
Plan for it. Find a visual, make a mantra, whatever works for you.
Remind yourself that your new job/career is a new territory. You're doing the best you can based on your life/work experience.
Focus on the value you create while you go through the process.
Share your story. Find opportunities to speak up.
Talk to a coach or a confidant who can help you put things into perspective and remind you of your strengths.
Keep a record of any compliments at work or positive feedback. This will help you celebrate the moment and look back on it when you need a reminder of your great work. This will also help you with your job interviews, negotiation, job hunting. It will become your testimonial.
Watch your words like should, must, have to, always, never. They are all focused on the past or on the future - you're not in the present.
Reframe your negative self-talk. Ask yourself questions like 'is this process helping me? If so, how? If not, why? Is there anything I can do right now? What is a realistic plan for the future?'.
Advocate for yourself. Think about your wins, obstacles you overcame, a time you took initiative, things you are proud of.
What makes you you? How do you impact other people? How do they experience you?
I know I'm doing my best to help people with career change and mindset. I know I don't need to become an expert. Constant learning is what makes my life exciting. I know my value, my inner worth, is coming from me being and not just doing. I know I'm just OK as you are just OK.
I know at times I might feel like a "stranger in the room" but I also know that it's coming from a life script that is not mine. I know I need help in my personal development and am surrounded with empowering people.
I know deep inside that career transition - and any transition - is a lifetime journey where I have embraced inner work in the pursuit of the truth.