The Imposter Syndrome is something that you do hear about from time to time.
People sometimes think ‘what if people find out what I am really like?’ or ‘I’m a total fraud’.
Valerie Young, the author of the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, describes it as “always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You feel as if you’ve flown under the radar, been lucky or that they just like you. If you dismiss your accomplishments and abilities, you’re left with one conclusion: That you’ve fooled them.”
Men do suffer from it but It is definitely something that affects more women than men.
A Hewlett Packard internal report found that men apply for a job or promotion when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, whereas women apply only if they meet 100% of the criteria.
From this we can assume that in general men have the confidence to take a leap of faith that they will be able to take on the role, but women are more reluctant to put themselves forward.
Is it that women feel that they need to be 100% perfect for the job before they try?
So, what is it about us that stopped us from putting ourselves forward to get ourselves noticed?
I love this quote from Richard Branson:
‘If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’
I’m guessing Richard Branson, didn’t get to where he is today having all the answers, confidence and knowledge straight away. From this, I gather that he was definitely an imposter at times but he took time to learn what he needed to know in order to succeed.
So what causes us to feel like an imposter:
- Thinking that we have to be 100% perfect about everything all of the time
- Low self esteem
- Lack of confidence
- Anxiety – the regular flavour (!) or social anxiety
- Being really hard on ourselves
The good news is that there are things that that we can do to overcome this…. read on!
Take time at the end of the day to list the things that you did well
When working in a previous career, various friends would have said to me that I would make a really good counsellor.
I used to get really annoyed with them as I saw myself as this business woman – not interested in any of this touchy-feely stuff.
Thinking back on it now, what I see is that I was good at forming connections with people and I had empathy. I didn’t rate that as a skill it at all.
But it is a skill and not everyone has it.
If you can, recognise something that you did well each day and just acknowledge that. Even if it’s only getting out of bed when you felt you couldn’t.
We need to celebrate all of our little victories.
Know that you have flaws and that that’s OK – nobody is perfect
People I meet through my work, regularly have impossibly high standards for themselves. Any slight mistake they make, they are beating themselves up.
They wouldn’t expect the perfection of other people so why are they so hard on themselves?
If you are beating yourself with a stick, ask yourself, if you were talking to a friend who had made the same mistake, what would you say to them?
I’m guessing that you would speak to them more kindly and be gentle and compassionate.
So be kind to yourself; talk to yourself as you would to your friend.
Stop comparing yourself to others
This can be a tough one, especially in the age of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
We constantly look at other people and make all of these assumptions about them, and make ourselves feel miserable in the process.
Facebook / Instagram are not real-life folks.
Everyone is different and comes with a different set of circumstances and experience. It is like comparing apples and oranges.
There will always be someone who is better looking, more successful, thinner, prettier/more good looking than you. You are on a hiding to nothing if you keep comparing yourself.
Maybe turn off the phone for a couple of hours a day and give yourself a break from comparing yourself to others.
Being wrong or making a mistake doesn’t make you an imposter
Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn and most start-ups fail.
If man didn’t have the courage to take a chance and make mistakes, there would be so much that we would not have achieved.
As a child, when we were learning how to walk, and we fell, we didn’t say to ourselves ‘I’m such a failure’. We got up, did it again and kept going until we succeeded.
This beating ourselves up is a learnt behaviour and can be changed.
In the words of the great Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Making mistakes is all part of the route of getting you to where you want to be. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes.
Treat it like an adventure – at least you had an interesting walk
Put it another way, don’t take it as seriously – try to enjoy the journey.
Whatever happens whether it is things not working out along the way, it is all part of the process of getting you to your destination.
As Tina Fey put it: “Ah, the imposter syndrome!? The beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I’ve just realised that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”
Realise that when you hold yourself back, you’re depriving the world of the things that are uniquely you
The reality is that pretty much everyone has doubts.
The best gift that you can give the world is to move forward regardless of any doubts—because doing this gives everyone else permission to strive and move forward as well.
In the words of Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Btw, every time I write something for my newsletter or blog I feel like an imposter.
Who am I to be writing about any of this? What makes me so special (nothing!)? Is anyone actually going to read any of this?
But I still show up and write.
It’s important to take action and not allow your doubts and fears to take over.
You’re probably more of an expert than you realise
We are sometimes put in the position of being an expert.
When this happens, we sometimes think that we have to know everything about the topic and if we don’t, then we are a fraud. But the reality is, that we can never know anything.
In my own field of EFT, through working with my clients, learning and experience, I am constantly learning new things – and we are constantly learning and evolving.
When my students start out with their case studies, they worry about not knowing enough about EFT Tapping. Of course, you have to recognise where you are at in terms of knowledge and experience but the reality is that they will be more of an expert on EFT than the people who they are working with.
And if you don’t know the answer, it’s perfectly ok to admit that you don’t. People can tell when you are spoofing and will respect you much more if you admit that you don’t have the answer but will find it out for them.
“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization
Acting ‘as if’ or fake it till you make it
In NLP, there is a technique called ‘modelling’.
What you do is take on the persona of someone who has all of the attributes that you would like to have and act as if you are them.
The first time I saw this being done was when I went to see a Scottish motivational speaker called Jack Black (not the actor!).
When he was on stage, he channelled his inner Billy Connolly. The way he spoke, the way he moved on the stage, what he said was just like Billy Connolly – and the audience enjoyed him all the more for this.
I had a client many years ago, and we had done work on building her confidence.
She identified someone who had the confidence that she wished she had for herself. So, her homework after one of her sessions was to take on this person’s persona – how they held themselves (standing up tall), how they spoke to people, how they reacted to whatever happened to them.
This was hugely helpful to her and anytime she went into a situation where she was lacking in confidence or feeling like an imposter, this helped her to channel her confidence.
Gradually, it helped to build up her confidence and not feel like a fraud.
So, whether you want to channel your inner Beyoncé, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey (or all of them) – the choice is up to you.
Get help to overcome your need to be perfect/low self esteem or lack of confidence
There are lots of different therapies and methodologies available now.
Of course, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Tapping is the technique that I have used to help both myself and others. The point is, find the thing that suits you and is going to work for you.
Everyone is different and one size doesn’t fit all. Find the thing that will help you to fully be your authentic self, and show your gifts to the world.
Imagine what the world would be deprived of if we all allowed our imposter syndrome to take over.
The reality is, that if everyone waited until they felt that they were 100% confident, and felt that they were 100% sure that they could do the job,nothing would get done.