Impostor Syndrome

Amy Wilson 02.08.2019

How it could be effecting you in the work place, and some tips on how to overcome it

Have you ever felt like a fraud? Like you're an impostor? 

The term impostor phenomenon, as it’s more accurately known in the world of psychology, was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in a paper titled; The Impostor Phenomenon Among High Achieving Women  

In a nutshell, Impostor Syndrome is the phenomenon where you feel that you are not as good as what others think, or the image you’re trying to portray. Someone who suffers from the impostor syndrome carries a fear of being “exposed” for their lack of skills and ability, even though this “lack” may just be in their mind. Research has estimated that 2 out of 5 successful people consider themselves frauds, while 70% of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. 
If you have feelings of Impostor Syndrome, I have researched some tips to help you overcome this. Whatever stage you're at in your career, I hope you find this useful.

1) Make a list of your achievements

As our harshest critics, we are often quick to cast doubt on our talents and abilities. We focus on what we lack and how we’re “not good enough.” This makes us feel like frauds even though we may already have the ability to do something well. Remind yourself how you got to your position and what you've done to deserve it. 

2) Don't sell yourself short 

Maybe you feel like a fraud because you don’t think you have anything good to offer. Maybe you feel that you’re just lying and pretending to be good when you aren’t. But know that whatever place you're at in you career, you're here because you are ready for it.  

Here’s an example: Say you just got promoted to be manager. You feel awkward as you are now leading your peers. Instead of working side by side, you’re now their manager who delegates work and critiques them, because of that, some of them feel unhappy. Perhaps you feel embarrassed as there is a more senior person who should have been promoted over you.

However, recognise that you have been promoted for a reason. While you may feel that you aren’t good enough for this role, trust that your managers have carefully evaluated your skill sets, performance and potential before promoting you. After all, managements don’t just randomly promote people without reason. Your managers wouldn’t have put you here if you couldn’t do it. So how about you start believing in yourself and work on being a fantastic manager to your staff, way better than anyone else could?

Don’t sell yourself short. You are where you are today because you have what it takes and you’ve worked your way there. So how about you make the best out of it?

3) Stop trying to prove yourself to others

People with the impostor syndrome tend to feel that they need to live up to their role, prove to themselves (and others) how they got there and what they're good at. Firstly, rather than get caught up with maintaining a certain image (which becomes an ego thing), focus on what matters: your work and your customers/clients/stakeholders, internal or external. Secondly, when you stop obsessing about your image, you can work on improving yourself, including your skills and knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still position yourself as an expert, especially if it’s part of your job status. However, there will always be things we don’t know and we should (a) humbly acknowledge our knowledge gaps and (b) continuously upgrade ourselves to close these gaps. Which brings me to the next tip.

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4) Improve your skills

Addressing the impostor syndrome isn’t just about self-talk. Perhaps you feel like a fraud because deep down, you see a gap between your perceived and real skills. While tips #1 and #2 are about recognising your achievements, this tip is about self-improvement. Because there is nothing more constructive than taking action to improve yourself. 

Make a list of all your gaps. It might be skills based, technical or interpersonal. Speak to your Manger, Mentor, ask for feedback from your team, even your family. However you can, gather feedback. With this feedback, you'll be able to make a list of what you need to improve on. Once you start working your way through the list, watch how good you'll feel about the improvements you're making.

5) Value add

In recruitment, our primary job is to help candidates find the job of their dreams, as well as assisting our clients build successful teams. It's a job based on service, about adding value, to our candidates and clients everyday. At MMK, we pride ourselves on improving lives, but when the day to day grind kicks in, even we lose sight of this sometimes.

If your job isn't people or service based, have a think about how you can add value with some of these ideas;

  • Training, train new people, current people in your team, anyone that would recognise the value of what you have to teach
  • Mentoring, it doesn't matter how much experience you have, even a grad is open to mentor-ship 
  • Improving processes, ask your Manager how you can assist, what ideas have you got? In a world of constant change, standing still is moving backwards 

Impostor syndrome happens when you’re more concerned about your fears and image, rather than what you want to achieve. Think about the people you want to serve, the ones you can help, the ones that might need your help. Create value for them. 

6) Stop comparing with others

In today’s social media world, we're more connected than ever. Everyone’s updates are so visible. Facebook, IG & Linked in posts, likes, accolades, praise and constant recognition. When we fail to measure up to such people, we feel inadequate.

Remember, everyone starts somewhere. When we compare ourselves with others constantly, we prevent ourselves from coming into our own. We subject ourselves to others achievements which may not be relevant to us.

Stop comparing yourself with others, focus on you, your goals, your career aspirations, your direction, yourself! Celebrate others success, just as you build your own path and succeed.

7) Remember that everyone is learning 

Our society celebrates perfection.  From social media, to advertising, but remember, everyone, including the perfectly polished CEO is still learning. Just because people don't reveal their struggles, doesn’t mean they aren’t facing them.

Minus accolades and flashy possessions, we are not that different from each other. All of us have struggles beneath our own successes. If we can recognise that everyone is human, and on their life journey, we can all focus on being our best self.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. I hope you found this useful. I would love to hear from you on your thoughts, maybe you have some others ideas to share? Let's continue the conversation.

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