Three Tips to help overcome the Impostor Syndrome

Do you ever have these thoughts playing out in your head?

I'm not good enough…
I'm about to be exposed for the phoney I really am…
It was a lucky fluke that I got this job…

Do you think you have to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove your worth? 

The good news is - you are not alone, the bad news?

This negative thinking will not help build your confidence and self-esteem; comparing yourself to others who you believe are better, smarter, more accomplished will only keep you in that state of stress and anxiety. But there are ways to conquer these feelings and enjoy your hard-earned successes. 

Firstly, that thing about not being alone? Studies have shown that up to 70% of us have suffered from what is known as the Impostor Syndrome, at some time in our lives.

The term was first coined by psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Immes, in a 1978 paper, The Impostor Phenomenon In High Achieving Women. The authors defined it as a problem affecting women who “Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” But many high-achieving women experience anxiety about performing well at work—how can you tell the difference?

People with impostor syndrome have very specific thought patterns. They feel they don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved, that their accomplishments are the result of luck or being in the right place at the right time instead of their talent, or that they’re a fraud who will eventually be found to be incompetent,

Whilst much has been written about possible reasons for these feelings, even more advice is available on to how to overcome them.

It helps me when I hear some of the most talented, capable and successful people out there, being prepared to share their moments of insecurity.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is known to have said

“There are still days when I wake up feeling a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”                                                                                       

Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou once said 

"I have written 11 books, but each time I think 'uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody and they're going to find me out.'"

It also helps to know that the majority of people who feel this way are high - achievers, so at the very least you deserve a pat on the back for that.

There are many ways to increase your self-confidence and beat this impostor feelings, here are just a few:-

  • If you’ve been invited to give a presentation, apply for a job or something equally scary, remember that the person who has invited you believes you can do it and that you are suitably qualified. Making an assumption that their judgement is flawed by asking you, is as bad as brushing off heartfelt compliments. (Oh - you do that too?)  Feel that fear and do it anyway!
  • Too often we can feel like a fake when we think that what we are doing is so really important. If you are aiming for perfection all the time, give yourself a break. Forget the self-importance and you’ll feel less like a fraud.
  • Faking things, really can work and doesn’t necessarily make you a fraud. When talking about increasing confidence, I often suggest smiling, whether you feel happy or not. I don’t mean walking about grinning inanely at everyone - that is more likely to get a less than helpful response from the local law enforcement agency. Endorphins are released when you smile. They are triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, which is interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases these chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way.

I have compiled an A-Z of Banishing the Impostor Syndrome, a simple guide to understanding why you feel like a fraud and giving lots of tips on how you can overcome these limiting beliefs.

To get your copy, follow this link to download the guide.

This article first appeared as a guest blog on the Springboard Consultancy website

BlogGill Donnell