I was sitting over lunch with a very capable friend, I’ll call her Tessa. Although we’ve known each other for several years, we only catch up once every few months. But I have dealings with her professionally and know her to be highly professional and efficient. In fact, she’s a wonderful role model.
She was telling me that she had been offered a job out of the blue. Not only that, but the person was willing to wait for her to make up her mind and start in her own good time. The job wasn’t going to be advertised or offered to anyone else.
‘Wow, that’s a great vote of confidence.’ I said.
She went quiet and looked down at the floor. ‘I’m not sure I can do it.’ she whispered.
My jaw dropped. She’d told me about the job and I knew she could do it standing on her head.
‘I thought if I took it I could always turn to you for advice if I got stuck.’ she replied.
Now, like I said, this is someone I look up to, not someone I expected to have the least insecurities about her ability. But she had.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘you’ve got the imposter syndrome.’
Wikipedia defines this as a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.
Sound familiar to you? Do you expect to be caught out at any minute? For others to see through your accomplishments to the ‘real’ (useless) you?
Enough! Let’s explore some ways to overcome this debilitating problem that stops you being assertive and enjoying your life to the full.
How to overcome Imposter Syndrome
1. Accept compliments on your work. Don’t brush them aside or think ‘oh, she’s just being nice.’ In fact, go one step further. Get yourself a notebook and write down every compliment you get.
2. Think through the work you did to get that compliment. That work shows your capabilities. List the skills you used.
3. Stop talking yourself down. No more, ‘I only..’ or ‘I just..’ or ‘it’s nothing.’
4. Don’t think your success is down to luck. It isn’t. It’s down to your knowledge and experience.
5. Act as if you believe in yourself. We’re not talking about going round bragging, no need for that. But how about walking upright, using assertive body language and speech. That old adage of fake it till you make is often true.
6. List your accomplishments. Yes, even those that others don’t comment on. You’ll need that list when it comes to your performance review anyway. Review that list regularly to remind yourself of all that you’ve achieved.
Follow these simple steps and you’ll find that within a few months, you are beginning to believe that you are the capable, assertive person other people see.
Imagine how good that will feel.