Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

In her new book Laura Whitmore admits she suffers from imposter syndrome, as does Sheryl Sandberg saying ‘Every time I didn’t embarrass myself—or even excelled—I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again”

Tom Hanks also publicly shared “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’

Finally, Lady Gaga says “I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day”

And as for me, well any success I ever experienced always came with a very large helping of imposter syndrome on the side. For a long time, I found it impossible to believe anything I achieved was because of me and was always some massive mix up that would eventually be found out and put right.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through pure luck

Imposter syndrome makes us believe our success has only happened because we somehow tricked others into believing we’re worthy. We are literally imposters, playing the role of someone talented and competent.

Who has it?

Impostor syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of job or social status, but ironically, it’s hard working, highflying, go-getters that experience it most.

Imposter syndrome was first documented in high-achieving women in the 1970s. While it is still more prevalent among women, men do suffer from it too.

What is the impact of imposter syndrome?

The primary symptom of imposter syndrome is persistent and hampering self -doubt.

It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed when you’re learning something new or when you take on a new role but with imposter syndrome those feelings don’t go away, in fact, they only get worse.

Imposter syndrome shows up as fear so strong it can paralyze us, anxiety so distracting we can’t focus and stress so consuming we live in a constant state of flight or fight.

Imposter syndrome can cause great damage to our career and confidence. It can cause us to lean out when we could lean in, stay silent when we should speak and sabotage every moment of our big break until it’s broken beyond repair.

How do we overcome imposter syndrome?

  • Recognise imposter feelings when they emerge. Awareness is the first step to change, so ensure you track your thoughts: what they are and when they emerge.
  • Take it a day at a time. Instead of telling yourself you don’t deserve success, remind yourself that it’s normal not to know everything and that you will find out more as you progress.
  • Reframe your thoughts. Nobody is 100% confident all the time. Feeling out of your depth and doubting yourself is a normal reaction to a new situation so it’s important to reframe it: “the fact that I feel inadequate right now does not mean that I really am.”
  • Be kind to yourself. You are human. You are entitled to make mistakes and forgive yourself. Don’t forget to reward yourself for getting things right as well.
  • Seek support. Everyone needs help: recognise that you can seek assistance and that you don’t have to do everything alone. This will give you a good reality check and help you talk things through
  • Stop comparing. With impostor syndrome, we tend to exaggerate everyone else’s accomplishments and downplay our own. So, the next time you compare yourself to other people, stop and think rationally. If you can adjust your comparisons, you’ve made an important step in silencing impostor syndrome.

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