I’ve been out and about being a little bit social over the last few weeks… which has felt like quite a big step after the last 2 years.
I’ve pushed myself waaay outside my comfort zone by attending some events for business owners. I find these challenging because, for all sorts of reasons, I just don’t love walking into a room full of people I don’t know. Even after all these years, I still have moments where I question whether I should be there.
Fortunately though, I’m learning to tame my noisy inner critic. I know she has the very best of intentions and is trying to protect me from a situation that’s likely to feel uncomfortable. I’ve also learned that from the discomfort I’ll learn new things and continue to grow and progress.
If you’ve ever minimised your accomplishments, struggled to articulate your capabilities, or believed your success is related to luck, then you’ve very likely experienced “imposter syndrome” or “imposter thoughts”. And you’re in good company, as many as 70% of the population lack self-belief and feel like a fraud at some point in their lives.
Getting over that nagging feeling you don’t belong
One of the biggest issues with imposter thinking is it can be difficult to talk about. Naturally you don’t want others to know you feel like a fraud. But in not being able to discuss how you’re feeling, you forfeit the opportunity to gain perspective.
Left unchecked your imposter thoughts can lead to increased anxiety, reduced productivity, procrastination, or perfectionism… all of which create a perfect storm that can knock your self-confidence.
We all experience self-doubt – sometimes occasionally, sometimes more often – but understanding what’s behind your thoughts is key to triggering change and growth. Yes, ironically, the way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter.
Strategies to overcome imposter thinking
1. RECOGNISE THE SIGNS
Recognising you’re experiencing imposter thoughts is the first important step to overcoming them… and often the hardest. As a rule, if you say things like your success is attributed to “luck”, rather than your hard work; experience terrifying levels of “fear of failure”; find it difficult to accept praise; or, feel you’re not worthy of your role, you’re almost certainly experiencing imposter thoughts. Take note of the moments and situations where you question your right to be there.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE & VALIDATE
When you acknowledge your imposter thoughts, you can inspect them and start to create some perspective. Interrogate your thoughts and establish the facts. So… you feel you’re not good enough? What evidence do you have to support that? Is it real or is it a story you’ve made up? Consider your uncomfortable situation… if it’s supported by fact, focus on what you can learn or do differently next time. And if it’s based on a story, acknowledge your feelings, accept they’re not based on reality, and find a way to let them go.
3. OWN YOUR SUCCESS
Imposter thoughts lead to self-doubt. If things go right, it’s down to luck or other external factors, and if they go wrong, it must be something you’ve done… am I right? This is all too common but very passive way of thinking. The antidote to self-doubt is taking responsibility for your actions and owning the outcomes. When you put yourself in control of what you do, you can learn from things that don’t go according to plan, take the time to recognise your strengths, and celebrate your successes.
4. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
Strangely imposter thoughts often showcase themselves in the questions you ask and language you use. Do you ask permission to do something (or even to ask a question)? Do you preface your statements with, “I’m not sure about”? Really listen for this because you’ll be surprised how quickly it creeps into your vocabulary. Try using more assertive language. Instead of “Can I ask a question?” try “I have a question” or rather than “It might just be me” try “I’m sure I’m not alone”. Assume you have a right to be there, and that your questions are valid.
5. REFRAME YOUR STORY
When you find yourself feeling like a fraud, a simple reframing of the story can be super-useful. Recognising your imposter thoughts, calling them out and challenging yourself to come up with a counter argument e.g., when “I’m not good enough” crops up, look for and state at least one great example of when you did achieve something “good enough”. Creating a positive statement referring to yourself in the 3rd person – “[Your name], you’re interesting and amazing!” (or something similar) – can instantly change how you perceive yourself.
Imposter Syndrome can be an isolating feeling that may halt your career momentum and deflate your self-confidence, leaving you frustrated and stuck.
But you’re not alone and, in fact, imposter thoughts are often a symptom of success… if you’re concerned about it, you’re probably doing it right. If it’s time to stop worrying whether you’re good enough to be what you really want to be and get your career unstuck, I’d love to help you finally figure out exactly what your next career move should be.