Do you ever catch yourself thinking “I'm in over my head, and someone is going to find out”? Maybe you've had a promotion, but you can’t quite believe that you were given the job. Are you running your business but plagued with doubts and fear about whether you’re up to it or not? Do you compare yourself to others and beat yourself up about how far ahead of you they are and how everyone else is doing it differently? Feeling like an imposter is damaging to your self-esteem and as a coach, I'm seeing it more and more.
Imposter syndrome can make you second guess all your decisions, lowers your confidence and limits your success. In the work I do with my private clients it has become clear that imposter syndrome is one of the key things that hold people back from achieving their full potential so I'm going to share three simple tips to overcome impostor syndrome right now.
I’m no stranger to Imposter Syndrome
I worked in a senior HR role in the corporate world for many years. During that time, I tended to overwork. I was a people pleaser constantly feeling that I shouldn't be where I was and that my peers were better than me. I felt that others deserved their senior roles more than I did. I lived in fear of being “found out”.
Having to present at Board level was a whole new level of anxiety. First, I would start getting those feelings in the pit of my stomach, just thinking about what I had to do. Then I would start putting so much pressure on myself. I decided that the only way to get through it would be to prepare, prepare and prepare!!! I would read tons of books, read all my training and go over and over and over my material. I was terrified of looking like a fraud and didn't want to trip up or have anyone catch me out. Even though people would say my presentation was great, I couldn't focus on the positive comments. I was convinced that they were only saying it to be nice. Or I would focus on the negative comments or the people who didn't say anything at all. My internal voice would tell me that I had just wasted everyone's time, and this would play over and over. When I got more positive feedback, I'd completely disregard it and focus on what I believed were negatives. I remember one presentation in particular. I got some really great feedback. Instead of being pleased, I thought “phew I got away with it again”.
Imposter Syndrome Can Affect Anyone
When I started as a coach, I was afraid to be visible. I was afraid to put myself out there and be known for the work I was doing. I got all the same feelings in the pit of my stomach. Even though all the evidence is to the contrary, why would someone think I'm the expert? Even though I had already transformed people’s lives through my coaching and training. The first thing you need to know about imposter syndrome is that anybody can struggle with it.
Are you a perfectionist?
In the 1970’s 150 women were interviewed. On the outside they had every appearance of success. Good careers, awards, accolades and qualifications. But what was on the outside didn’t match how they were feeling on the inside. Inside, they felt like frauds. Many of these women were perfectionists. They were very self-critical but avoided criticising others. They were their own biggest critics, often living in a state of anxiety, fear and self-doubt.
You are not alone
We put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve and yet we struggle to accept praise. It is estimated that 70% of people will suffer with imposter syndrome at some point. Ironically it is often the most successful entrepreneurs who struggle with imposter syndrome the most. Many successful actors have openly admitted to living with imposter syndrome including Emma Watson, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Sheryl Sandberg, and Jodie Foster.
The nature of imposter syndrome means that external success heightens rather than soothes the effect as the sufferer believes they are just ramping up the confidence trick they are playing on everyone. Emma Watson has said “the more I accomplish the feelings of inadequacy increase”.
As human beings we are more alike than we are different but we're afraid to show vulnerability and admit that when we are doubting our own abilities.
Three tips for overcoming Imposter Syndrome
The only difference between people who do have imposter syndrome and those who don’t is that they think different thoughts. All we've got to do is think like a non-imposter!!! No one likes to fail or struggle. Imposters feel shame but the non-imposters know that it's okay not to be great at everything.
To stop feeling like an imposter, you have to stop thinking like an imposter and kill negative thoughts.
The brain doesn't know the difference between fear and excitement. When you're doing something where your confidence is shaky try telling yourself “I'm excited”. Anxiety and excitement can feel very similar and with practice you can flip it. Just notice how you're feeling about it. “Oh, I'm feeling anxious. How else can I think about this?”
Watch the self talk
You have to learn to be aware of your self-talk, the thoughts you have about yourself and what you're doing. Your internal script is your automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your imposter feelings.
The problem with imposters is we pay too much attention to the voice in our head. We need to be aware of it so we can reframe it.
When you start a new job or project, instead of thinking, “wait until they find out I've no idea what I'm doing” try thinking “Everyone who starts something new, feels nervous in the beginning”.
Visualisation is one of the most powerful techniques out there. Visualisation is the practice of repeatedly imagining what you want to achieve in order to create it and attract it. It's the method used by 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps and Oprah Winfrey. Whatever it is that you are facing or want to achieve, spend time picturing yourself completing it successfully. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance related stress!
If you are ready to let go of those old limiting beliefs that are no longer serving you and want to move forwards with confidence why not book a call. I’d love to help you.