Imposter Syndrome. What is it and do you have it?

When someone asks me to guest post or speak at their event or whatever I occasionally get this little inner freak out that goes something like “Who am I to be doing that?! Maybe I’m not good enough” whilst I am saying “sure, I would love to!”

It’s not a new thought.  I used to have this undermining little voice in my ear in corporate life too, whispering “I’m not good enough” before a big presentation or whatever. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I was exceptionally good at my job. I totally kicked ass, in a consistently outstanding manner. Why the hell was I worrying and letting this voice pull me off track?

Well, it’s a voice that is particularly common in women and even has it’s own name, “Imposter Syndrome”.  Perhaps you can hear it sometimes too?

This is all about an inner fear of feeling a fraud in some way. That we are just about to be “caught out” or “found out”.  It predisposes us to put down our SUCCESSES to EXTERNAL factors such as luck, and any FAILURES to INTERNAL factors such as our own abilities or skills.

I would see this a lot in the workplace. Super smart women not going for promotions that their far less able male colleagues were sure they were a shoe-in for. It seems that in general men are more likely to think the opposite: put any failures down to external factors (bad luck, idiot client, whatever) and any successes down to their general awesomeness level.

When a someone is unhappy in a job a man is more likely to say “it’s the job” and a women more likely to say “it’s me”.  Men are also more likely to overestimate their capacities, and women to underestimate. Interesting right?

Clearly, “Imposter Syndrome” is seriously unhelpful. It’s a killer for self-esteem and can hold us back from all manner of amazing opportunities. Coaching women to overcome this tendency and unleash their inner awesome is a deeply rewarding facet of my work.

Here’s a couple of quick tips to nip and feelings of being “found out” in the bud:

  1. Notice the thought that pulls you down. Awareness is everything! Notice if it’s a thought which attributes your success to an external factor or your failure to something internal with you. Realise this thought is not necessarily true.
  2. Get real. Be aware of all your successes. What have you done particularly well? Who rates you? What words of praise or emails of thanks can you go and reread? Focus on HARD EVIDENCE of your skills and attributes.
  3. Fake it ‘til you make it baby. If someone has asked you a thing or promoted you or whatever then it’s because they have no doubt you are up to it! Believe in their judgment, it may be far more accurate than your own.
  4. Play with the boys. Take some time to observe how the boys tend to roll. How they shrug off things that do not go well, and how they fully own their successes. It’s a much more confident way to live.
  5. Seize the Day. Believe in yourself. Step up. Listen to the evidence of your awesomeness not the sneaky Imposter whispers. Go grab some new opportunities with both hands and rock it out.

I would LOVE to hear your comments. What do you think? Do you have that inner voice of self doubt?






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