You know what it’s like, you’ve prepared for a meeting, spent hours writing a presentation or aced a job interview only to arrive on the day with all kinds of unhelpful thoughts running through your head. “What if I mess this up?” “What if they realise, I have no idea what I’m talking about” or “Maybe I don’t belong here?”.
It can be difficult to identify the source of these thoughts. Is it nerves? Anxiety? Or is it just that you’re being forced outside of your comfort zone? We have the answer; it’s called imposter syndrome. This is an irrational fear that you’re not good enough or you’ve got to where you are in life simply through chance, and at any second, someone is going to call you out for who you really are, a fraud! We say irrational because deep down, you know you’ve earned your place at that table but try telling your brain that!
Now, imposter syndrome can rear its head many times during a lifetime on both a personal and professional level, and there will be many reasons for its arrival.
REASONS FOR IMPOSTER SYNDROME
- Perfectionism – Are you the kind of person that sets excessively high goals for your self? Perhaps you’ve been accused of being a micromanager, unable to fathom the idea of anybody else doing the job as well as you can. If so, the chances are you’re a perfectionist. The trouble is when you don’t hit your sometimes unachievable high goals, or your work isn’t 100% perfect each time, self-doubt sets in and with-it imposter syndrome. You’ll start to question if you measure up, and you’ll likely over-think your existential worth for days to come.
2. The workaholic – Are you always the one to work late at night? Perhaps you’re never quite satisfied that you’ve done enough; maybe once you’ve completed a task, you look for other jobs that don’t necessarily need to be done. The workaholic is addicted to the validation that comes from the act of working, not the actual work itself. The obsession for work is normally a way of hiding insecurities or diverting one’s mind from other personal matters. The workaholic will constantly try to prove their worth to suppress imposter syndrome, and if it ever comes into question, they’ll just work even more. The trouble is, if you always feel like you need to be working to validate your existence, you’ll let your health, hobbies and family fall to the wayside. As with any addiction, this can quickly get out of hand and severely affect your quality of life.
3. The Do-it-all – These are people who believe that asking for help is a bad thing. To them, it shows weakness, lack of knowledge and that they are an imposter. A do-it-all will always refuse assistance, even if they know deep down that they need it. They will take on the world, spread themselves thin and never let anyone else take credit for their work. This is fantastic if you want to grow your list of responsibilities, but not so good for your general well-being. Do-it-all’s are likely to spread themselves so thin that they become exhausted and fatigued. As with the workaholic, they will neglect their own health and personal relationships to ensure that nobody ever gets the chance to see them for the imposter they think they are. The ironic thing is that your work will never be the best it can be if you try to do everything yourself instead of dedicating yourself to a few tasks and delegating the rest.
4. The genius – Again, these people set themselves very high targets. They expect themselves to know everything and carry out tasks at lightning speeds. If they falter or take too long to complete a task, they start to question whether or not they are an imposter. The genius is used to excelling without too much effort; perhaps they were told as a child that they were a natural genius or were always top of the class. In reality, though, it is impossible for anyone to know and achieve everything, so eventually, the self-proclaimed “genius” will feel like an imposter.
HOW TO SOLVE IMPOSTER SYNDROME
The first thing to realise is that you are definitely not alone. All of us have experienced imposter syndrome in some shape or form at some point in our lives. It’s natural. Realise that you’re unlikely ever to be able to rid yourself of these thoughts fully, but there are ways in which you can identify, manage and learn to live with them.
What is it that has caused these feelings of inferiority? Is it that you’ve been asked to do something out of your comfort zone? Something from your past has reared its ugly head, or is it something that someone has said? Having a better understanding of why you are feeling the way you are is an important step in learning to deal with imposter syndrome.
Once you have identified the cause, it will help to talk to someone about it. You’ll need to choose someone you trust and have confidence in, preferably someone outside your inner circle, such as David Wyatt. Being a Business Mentor and Life Coach, David is perfectly positioned to be able to take an abstract view of your situation and will be able to identify when feelings and thoughts are irrational.
Once you know what makes you feel this way, it’s time to take action. Look at the language you use daily. If you’re prone to using pessimistic language that encourages doubt, update your vocabulary to encourage you and others to champion your ideas.
Be more assertive in your achievements and understand that you didn’t just get to where you are on a fluke. By writing down your story and working to reframe it, you allow yourself to realise just how far you’ve come. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, let your story shine and soak it all in. Remember all the people that have given you opportunities along the way. Each of them have hired, trusted and believed in you based on your individual strengths, skills and personality. Simply put, you really do deserve to be where you are!
The final stage of dealing with imposter syndrome is acceptance. Only once you come to terms with the fact that these feelings are normal will you be able to move forward. In reality, imposter syndrome in itself is a by-product of achievement which should give you the confidence to know that you’ve been doing something right. Also, remember that you are not alone; famous authors, actors and CEOs across the world have all had the same thoughts as you, and you definitely won’t be the last.
So, if you’re looking to deal with imposter syndrome once and for all, contact David Wyatt. David is a Business Mentor and Life coach and draws on his own personal experience to help you discover, transform and realise your life’s true potential. He is waiting to listen, talk and advise in a safe, confidential environment, allowing you to take control of imposter syndrome and focus on being you!