I wanted to blog today about Imposter Syndrome. It’s something I have helped hundreds of clients to overcome. In fact, it’s incredibly common. At best Imposter Syndrome can make you want to prove yourself but at its worst it can completely stall your business success and even your personal happiness. That’s why I want to share several effective strategies for reframing that negative inner voice that says “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I’m just a fraud.”
Imposter Syndrome takes all our self doubts and feeds them back to us in a series of worries and negative thoughts. While they are only thoughts, that’s not to say they aren’t incredibly powerful.
When it’s particularly bad Imposter Syndrome can colour the whole of your day, effecting your interactions, decision making and confidence, but for many of us it may simply arise as a negative crisis during a particularly stressful situation.
If you’ve ever said any of the following to yourself then you know what I’m talking about;
I shouldn’t be doing this
I’m not cut out for this job
I’m out of my depth
I’m going to be found out as a fraud
This job/person/situation is too good for me
I don’t know what I’m doing
Why did I think I could manage having my own business?
The list of negative thoughts can be horribly long! But let me reiterate this – they are only thoughts; negative critical voices that can take over during moments of vulnerability. Imposter Syndrome can rear its ugly head at work but also in personal situations, like parenting or family dynamics, where you might wonder why you ever thought you’d make a great parent (this one usually comes into our heads when faced with a difficult day of childcare!). Regardless of what the trigger is for Imposter Syndrome, I have developed some interesting ways of working around it.
Understand The Danger
It may sound dramatic but Imposter Syndrome is dangerous. That’s because when the negativity gets very loud, the critical thoughts can become very powerful, to the extent of changing our behaviour and affecting our decisions. Even when the voice isn’t real, that doesn’t mean that if left to its own devices, that it won’t start to present real problems.
Understanding that thoughts affect behaviour, and that behaviour affects outcome and results, is super important. Thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies, so think about the kind of prophecy you’d like, focus on that instead of listening to the doubt and fear.
Counteract Imposter Syndrome’s negative criticism by actively noticing when these thoughts arrive. By acknowledging that your brain is stirring up some negative voices, you can put them at arms length. Simply saying to yourself, “Oh there’s that Imposter Syndrome visiting me again. Not helpful thank you,” can help you to disconnect from the feelings and thoughts and refocus your energies on problem-solving
Take a break
Often Imposter Syndrome preys on us when we are feeling overtired, over stressed or over worked. When we are vulnerable we are less able to rationalise, so if you notice Imposter Syndrome’s negativity approaching you like a little black rain cloud, give yourself permission to take a break, change the scenery and clear your head by immersing yourself in a new task.
Accept it is normal
It is the most human thing in the world to have doubt and fear, Imposter Syndrome is something most people have experienced at some point, so accept that it is a normal part of professional (and personal) life. That having these thoughts isn’t strange or bizarre.
Reframe the game
Reframing Imposter Syndrome is a lot easier when you have some tools in place to work with. I’m going to share three questions with you that I think are super powerful. The next time you’re in a moment of doubt, ask yourself this; If you knew that every one in the room had the same insecurity as you, how would that change your outlook?
At some point, in everyone’s lives, we all suffer from insecurity it’s just that some people manage it better in the moment. So, if you knew that everyone else feels the same as you, how would that change your outlook? It’s quite empowering isn’t it? Insecurity is different to reality.
The second question is, which of your assumptions about yourself would your friends challenge? Often we can be very hard on ourselves and overly self-critical. So try to imagine what a friend of yours would say if they were to know what your Imposter Syndrome is telling you? My advice, if you can’t actually come up with that answer yourself, is to go and ask somebody that’s close to you to see what their perspective is, because quite often your own perspective will have become distorted along the way.
This last question is very powerful because it helps you to soften your critical view and turn down the volume on the negative internal narrative we tell ourselves.
So take a moment to think, how would you describe yourself if you were being as kind to and generous to yourself as you are to your friends? If one of your friends or your loved ones was sad, upset or feeling inadequate in some way, what would you say to them? Try saying the same thing to yourself.
Positivity is a mindset that needs constant TLC. We all have the potential to unlock it, and push negativity away. If you’re concerned about self-limiting beliefs that you have or think you may be suffering with Imposter Syndrome in a more profound way then please get in touch for a complimentary consultation to see if we can work together.
Shereen Hoban is an executive business coach and entrepreneurial coach. Find out more about her coaching services and programmes here: www.shereenhobancoaching.com Sign up to join her Launch & Thrive Facebook Community for Women Entrepreneurs.