What is it?
Imposter Syndrome is a false belief about your own self-worth and in particular your ability to do a particular job. Research has identified that around 70% of people have feelings at some time in their careers of self-doubt. People often lack an internal sense of self-worth and feel that they are somehow a fraud which can then develop into an irrational insecurity (Meads, 2021).
This is often contrary to lots of evidence surrounding them that shows the opposite. Despite their many qualifications and many achievements, somehow, they still have these doubts about their position in the world, for whatever reason. This may link back to limiting beliefs which have been deposited the sub-conscious brain many years previously, perhaps as a child or at school.
The voices in their head may say the following: –
- I am not good enough.
- I am going to get found out any minute now.
- I will make a fool of myself.
- I don’t belong here, and therefore I don’t feel safe or confident anymore.
These thoughts are found underneath the iceberg, and they are not always talked about or recognised. If left unchallenged, they can have long term effects on both our performance and our general well-being. It may result in us playing it safe, not going for that dream promotion. Or it may manifest in not allowing us to set ourselves challenging goals and dreams. It is just far safer to stay within our comfort zone, as moving from this place will set away thoughts of doubt, stress and anxiety which can then feel very uncomfortable.
Often our desire to hold on to our limiting beliefs is so strong, they hold us back indefinitely.
Feelings related to imposter syndrome can emerge in: –
- Competitive workplaces
- Periods of transition
- Following a promotion or a move to a new role
- Joining new teams of high performing individuals
- When taking on additional and higher levels of responsibility
- After being given a higher salary.
For me, this happened when I finally secured what I thought (and by the way lots of other people thought was going to be) my ideal job, becoming a full-time Ofsted Inspector.
I had passed all the stringent, and challenging assessment tasks. I had already been a successful part-time Ofsted inspector, and a successful Senior Manager in a very high-performing college. I had all the qualifications and experience. But recent life events had left me, at that time in my life, with a lack of belief in myself and with a lack of self-worth. This was then exacerbated by being placed in this new role, my dream job with other very self-assured and high performing individuals who just seemed to make it look easy. The room for error in this new role was very fine, and I had very demanding bosses.
And so, the seeds of doubt began to grow in my mind.
From my own experiences, I would also like to add two additional areas where imposter syndrome can emerge:-
- When taken out of your class comfort zone. Feeling you do not belong socially.
- When life events challenge your own confidence and self-worth.
The first step to dealing with feelings of imposter syndrome is to recognise its place in your life and your thoughts and to take action to eradicate the symptoms of this condition. Without intervention, this imposter syndrome can take you into a spiral of self-doubt and anxiety and impact very heavily on your performance at work and your general well-being.
This was my experience, until I understood the impact of such negative thinking and chatter in my mind, and the resultant impact on my own performance.
The next step was to take positive action.
So, what action can I take?
Once you recognise this in yourself, there are several paths of action you can take. The most important thing is that you do take positive action.
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you feel confident to do so, talk to your line manager who should recognise your fears and anxieties and support you to move forward.
- Deal with the ‘monkey talk’ or ‘negative chatter’ in your head.
- If you do not feel that you can, or wish to confide with people at work, seek some support from a coach who recognises the impact of imposter syndrome.
- Try some of the calming techniques shared on the resource page of my website gillianforrestercoaching.com.
- Definitely, try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or TAPPING to both identify and address those limiting beliefs which may have led you to imposter syndrome.
- Try www.thetappingsolution.com – read more about this technique at https://gillianforrestercoaching.com/emotional-freedom-tapping-eft-or-tapping/
What are the benefits?
The benefits of taking positive action and seeking a coach to support you:-
- Talking this through with a trained coach, who understands and can empathise, will take a great load of your shoulders. Let someone else guide you to a better place to eradicate these negative feelings and negative talk.
- Talking this through will begin to lower your stress levels.
- Working with a coach will help you feel calm and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Rest of course, being essential for high performance at work – none of us operate at our best when constantly tired.
- Coaching will help you to identify and visualise what it is you want to achieve in your life.
- Coaching will take you to a happier place and be better prepared to deal with the causes and symptoms of imposter syndrome.
How do I begin?
Contact a reputable coach and book a programme of coaching support.
Final note. Imposter Syndrome is not always a bad thing. Only when it gets out of control.
I love the following quote from Rich Litvin (Chandler & Litvin, 2013, pg 246)
Most people hope that one day they’ll no longer feel Imposter Syndrome. But the truth is that if you don’t feel Imposter Syndrome, you’re not playing big enough. For top performers. Imposter Syndrome isn’t a bug – it’s a feature. After all, if you’re the most interesting person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
From The Prosperous Coach; Increase income and impact for you and your clients (2013) by Maurice Bassett Publishing.
Fantastic advice. It is about managing your Imposter Syndrome and not letting it manage YOU.