The imposter syndrome: it can be a fleeting sensation that you only ever experience the once or one that cripples us with nerves at every available opportunity. I am the later. I hide my imposter syndrome behind jokes and constant re-questioning that can drive those around me mad. I become consumed with nervous energy and lose the ability to focus…on pretty much anything!
We all cope with (or suffer) our imposter syndromes in our own way, we just need to ensure that it doesn’t stop us from achieving what we can… and strive to achieve more.
We need to understand the difference between the imposter syndrome and a lack of confidence. Sometimes we have a bad day, week or year where everything goes wrong. We can be starting a new job, changing career, setting up our own business. We can be delivering a speech to a group of people we respect and want to respect us back. These are understandably times when we may doubt our ability, right to be in that place at that time, question our decision making/thought processes. It’s perfectly normal not to be confident all the time. I repeat: it is perfectly normal to not be confident 100% of the time.
It is when our lack of confidence starts stopping us from accepting praise, when we doubt our ability to go for a position that we have the experience and skills for, when we begin to constantly second guess ourselves and believe that we are a hair’s breadth from being discovered as completely incompetent… that is when it becomes a problem. That is when we are in the grip of the imposter syndrome monster.
When the imposter syndrome hits us, it hits us hard and may befuddle our brains to the extent that things we know become unknowns, facts need to be verified for the
umpteenth time, we second, third and fourth check our diaries to make sure we haven’t missed a vital update/meeting that a little voice says must have happened because we couldn’t possibly be as prepared as we think we are. We feel frauds, that what we have achieved is a fluke or undeserved and begin to stress that we will be found out. We begin to wait to be called into our manager’s office and fired, or our plans and ideas become crippled and we can’t bring them to fruition to keep our business moving forward. We can’t bring ourselves to go for jobs that we have the experience, skills and passion for, because we keep listening to that horrible, nagging little voice that tells us we just aren’t good enough. It becomes impossible for us to take pleasure in accomplishments as we are waiting to be exposed.
The imposter syndrome is believing that everything you do well is subject to you ‘getting away with it’. You live in fear of being found out to be terrible at your job and every piece of positive feedback you are given is accompanied by a little voice in the back of your mind say ‘Well, you fluked it again… for now. But it’s just a matter of time…’
Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian, defined the imposter syndrome as feeling way of your depth, but too firmly entrenched to get out. Don’t let the imposter syndrome rule your life.
The imposter syndrome is not something to suffer in silence. The Guardian calls it ‘a mind-trap [that] prevents people from believing in themselves, to the detriment of us all.’ Ridiculously, the more successful we are, the more it can affect us, and that is its very ‘insidiousness’, how it becomes so devastatingly crippling. This is why it is so important to recognise if for what it is. Once we recognise it, we are well on the way to controlling it and enjoying ourselves as we realise our potential.
Some of us may only ever experience the imposter syndrome once, others may deal with it throughout their lives. There is no predisposition that we can lay our fingers on. People with troubled pasts, difficult day to day living situations, high achievers and perfectionists may be the most obvious demographics and if we go through a difficult patch, such as bereavement, illness, financial difficulties etc, we are all susceptible.It doesn’t differentiate.
The thing with the imposter syndrome is it is something you have to control. It cannot be cured by a pill, it won’t go away and never come back again. Take a look at some of the YouTube videos below and you will hear from people who work with it, who have found ways to cope. Also, in the resources below is a short quiz on the imposter syndrome. And I will confess now, that my severity is high. However, while I have just accepted it in the past as something I have to live with, my research during the writing of this blog has shown me that I can work through it.
I will take Meredith Peebles advice by owning it. I will start accepting the praise I now only jokingly accept or disregard, I will tell myself I do deserve to be where I am and that I am doing my job well. I will own my style of working and of relating to people, because it is my style and it works for me. I own my imposter syndrome, doyou?
Imposter Syndrome – Mike Cannon-Brookes – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNBmHXS3A6I
Own it- Meredith Peebles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io65fyW1Xy0
The surprising solution to the Imposter Syndrome – Lou Solomon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whyUPLJZljE