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#1 Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a term first used by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 70’s. The term refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. It’s those times when you feel a phony. You don’t believe in your own capability, might attribute your success to luck (‘I only got here because I’m lucky, or there was an error at interview), or could worry that sometime soon you’re going to get found out (‘I don’t really know what I’m doing!’). 

An original (incorrect) belief was that imposter syndrome affected only women, but it very much can catch any of us, and contributing factors are different for everyone. According to a Blind Report in 2018 in 2018, 58% of Tech Employees Experience Imposter Syndrome and more than half of employees at Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, report that they sometimes feel they don’t deserve their job despite their accomplishments.

The beauty of the impostor 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!’ . . . just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. – Tina Fey

Valerie Young found patterns in people who experience Imposter Syndrome:

  • Perfectionists who set extremely high expectations for themselves and any small mistake will make them question their own competence.
  • Experts feel the need to know every piece of information before they start something new and are hesitant in asking a question or speaking up in fear of looking stupid.
  • When the natural genius finds it hard to accomplish something, they feel they are not good enough.
  • Soloists feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own. Any help asked is seen as a failure or a fraud.
  • Superheroes push themselves to work harder to prove that they can succeed in everything.

If you’re ever feeling like an imposter (or someone you know is), here are some tips:

  • Understand your value and worth. Write and maintain a log of your achievements. Keep it with you and when you’re feeling low read it and remember what you are capable of.
  • Recognise that you’re not alone feeling like an imposter.
  • Reframe your thoughts. When the imposter feeling hits, you acknowledge it and say, “ah, here we go this is a new challenge. That’s ok brain, thank you for recognising it.” 
  • Talk about it with people you trust. Pick people who can be objective and invite them to tell you what they value most about you and your contribution.
  • Join a new club, meet-up or networking group to practice how to push back against imposter syndrome. Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences and your failures.
  • Talk about it with a professional coach or mentor, but one that has experienced and overcome (or understood how to handle) imposter syndrome themselves.

Common Leadership Worries – A Series

Leaders are typically described as strong, confident and assured people, knowing what to do when others don’t, and having the courage to act. But being a leader can put you in one of the most lonely and difficult places you will ever be, and every leader I’ve ever met has worries. Some are genuinely terrified of getting it wrong, letting people down or being found out as incapable, and they cope in different ways with these challenges.

Over the last 18 years, I have coached hundreds of people from interview candidates to team members, colleagues, and leaders. Across those conversations, patterns emerge and I’m going to share common worries that I hear with a few tips to overcome or manage them.

If you have any additional tips or are looking for a new coach, please do get in touch with Juliet via sayhello@opensquareconsulting.com

Image: Hendi Watani, Pexels

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