How to Silence Imposter Syndrome...and banish that inner critic.

How to Silence Imposter Syndrome…and banish that inner critic.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a form of ‘intellectual self-doubt’. People with imposter syndrome tend to be intelligent and high achievers. They’re often perfectionists. It is estimated that 80% of people report having it at some time in their careers. It can surface out with the work environment in our personal/ family relationships too, but here I am focusing on how it can affect us in the world of work.

And did you know there are 5 different types of Imposters, as identified by Dr Valerie Young, co-founder of the Institute of Imposter Syndrome. Imagine, this is so prevalent that they need a specific institution to research, study and provide training and tools to, in their words, 'stamp out' imposter syndrome.

Here is a quick summary of the 5 different types:

1. The Perfectionist - are individuals who set tough goals for themselves and if they do not achieve this goal as they expect, they start doubting their capabilities and worrying if they are able to actually do the task or job.
They can be loath to delegate to others and if not careful could be viewed as a bit of a control freak. Success is often fleeting as they are rarely satisfied, feeling that they can always do better.

2. The Superhuman - regard themselves as not good enough when compared to their colleagues, even if their skills and achievements outweigh their colleagues. They tend to overwork themselves in a bid to measure up and constantly search for validation.

3. The Natural Genius - believe that they should always be competent without trying too much, hence, the name. They continually judge their competence using speed and ease as the standard, instead of effort. If they take a long time trying to learn something, they start to feel ashamed.Just like the perfectionists, the natural genius sets the standard ridiculously high. The first focuses on expectations, while the genius judges themselves on their ability to succeed the first time they try.

4. The Soloist- believe that asking for help will only reveal that they are weak; hence, they refuse assistance to prove their worth. When they are stuck or have difficulty in a particular task, they would rather fail the task in hand or spend much more time on research, rather than reaching out and seeking support.

5. The Expert - takes pride in what they know and how much they can do. This is their measure of success. On the face of it this is a strength; however, for the experts it is a curse as they feel that they will never know enough and fear that they will be found out to be inexperienced or unintelligent. This feeling can surface when you have been the font of all knowledge in your previous workplace and are shocked to no longer be that ‘expert’.

Each of these types of imposters might need some specific guidance to help overcome negative thoughts, but whatever type you identify with (and it may be multiple) you can start to take back control.

I don't know about you, but I found that moving into a new job or going for interview were two of the most susceptible times when that little monster appears. I definitely recognise myself in I and 4.

I remember in a few of my new roles that I was loath to ask others for help and advice, thinking they would judge me and decide I wasn't worthy of this new role. This is bonkers, of course you need to ask questions to understand, people, the culture, the market place and so on. Colleagues and your new team generally want to help you and like their advice being asked. Ok not the same questions over and over.

The perfectionist monster in me would tend to rear its head when I was under stress - implementing a big project or a significant change of circumstances.
So yes, Imposter Syndrome can be different in different contexts.

Have you found yourself thinking any of the following:
😟   I feel like a fraud
😟   I never feel good enough
😟   I feel like I don’t belong
😟   I'm filled with self-doubt
😟   I don't like to accept praise
😟   I play down my strengths

The good news is that there are steps you can take to silence impostor syndrome.  The first step to dealing with it is to admit that you have it.

Recognise and call out these disruptive thoughts and feelings when they appear. Think about what led to these thoughts. Recognise that these are your feelings rather than actual facts.

2.    RE-FRAME
These feelings of inadequacy and fear are in your mind, so imagine how you would feel if you could turn these thoughts into something positive. Instead of thinking “I don’t know anything about….” try reframing it to “I don’t know everything about...yet. I’m still learning”.

3.   ACCEPT 
100% perfection is impossible. Remind yourself that no one – and nothing – is perfect, and that everyone has a different perception of success and perfection. What you think of as failure or ‘not perfect’ may be a success, or perfect, to someone else with different goals. Good enough is often enough. (I admit it took me years to work on this one!)

Write down your strengths and achievements. Think about how your qualifications, experience and expertise have led to where you are now. Keep a record of positive feedback from others, too – read this back to yourself whenever you need a boost.

Find someone you can talk to, whether it be a coach, friend or trusted colleague. You do not need to tackle this alone. Other people can often reassure you and help you realise that your feelings of inadequacy are often irrational.

When things go well, praise yourself and challenge any negative thoughts. It’s all too easy to attribute success to others, or just to good luck. So, when someone gives you a compliment or praises you, accept and enjoy it.

With effort and reprogramming of your thoughts you really can learn to overcome your self-doubt and celebrate your successes.
Imposter no more. You got to where you are today because you deserve to be there!

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