"Everyone else is better than me. I am not as good as people think I am and sooner or later someone is going to find out. "
This is something I hear so many times in my coaching sessions, so many people feel this way. Do you? You may have come across this phenomenon before but if not, let me tell you a little more about Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that we are not as good as other people think we are and that we will be found out. It is often attributed as being particularly prevalent amongst high achieving women but I would say I see it as often in men. This belief can lead to you discounting your achievements and being harder on yourself than you need to be.
Let's start with a little test. Do you (or have you) ever:
- Struggle to internalise your accomplishments
- Feel that others think you are better than you are
- Attribute any success you may have to being 'lucky'
- Worry you will be found out
- Feel like a fraud
- Believe the fact that you are able to do something means that it can't be a difficult thing to do
- Focus on what you can't do, rather than valuing what you can do
If you answered yes to more than one of these you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Everyone suffers from it to a certain degree, in fact, it has been claimed that 70% of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point in their life. Whether you feel it in relation to your employment, a project or raising your kids, rest assured - it's very common.
I am sure you won't be surprised to learn that people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome are often perfectionists being concerned that being 'good enough' is never 'good enough' for them. Sound familiar? If so, you may find that you push yourself further and harder to compensate for these feelings (hence your success) which can result in you feeling like you are even more of an imposter! Arghh. A vicious circle. The key is achieving a balance, insecurity can drive you to work harder and thus be more successful but if out of balance it can lead to a chronic lack of confidence.
A quick exercise to banish Imposter Syndrome
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that you can overcome Imposter Syndrome. The bad news is that it will take time. I don't have time in a blog post to help you work through any feelings of Imposter Syndrome you may have (that's where the coaching sessions are perfect) but I can give you a tool which might help. Do you ever struggle to accept a compliment? Try this (I ask you to go into this with an open mind and to be open to thinking that change is possible) :
Can you think of 5 people whose opinions you trust and respect and who would be completely honest with you? Good. Now, I want you to write/email/message them with the following 5 questions (they should take no more than 5 minutes to answer):
- what do you most admire about me?
- what do you consider to be my greatest strength?
- what do you consider being my greatest achievement?
- what one thing could I change for my own benefit?
- what one word sums me up for you?
This exercise helps you to see what others are saying and to practice accepting a compliment.
"Imagine a compliment as a gift: you wouldn't reject a birthday present would you? So why reject a compliment?" - Kim Morgan, MD Barefoot Coaching
When you read the replies repeat what they have said, in the first person e.g. if they say 'I admire your ability to stay calm in a difficult situation' then you would say to yourself 'I am able to stay calm in difficult situations'. Remember to thank the people who fed back too!
If when you read the feedback you find it difficult to accept I would remind you to assess who gave the feedback to you - someone you trust and respect who you chose because of their honesty.