Have you ever felt like you're not good enough to do the job you've been hired to do — and that your boss might figure it out at any moment? Or maybe you've felt like you're only pretending to be an adult who's capable of buying a home or raising a human child, and everyone else you know actually has it totally figured out.
You are not alone! Most of us have felt this way at some point in our lives.
No matter how many successes we have had, or great reviews our boss has given we are only able to remember the times we did not succeed or did not perform as well as we hoped. It is a human condition that we see the Nots and Should haves not the Dids and Dones. This is called imposter syndrome. That feeling that we are not as capable and/or smart as people think we are. The irony of imposter syndrome is that all the self-doubt and negative self-talk actually does keep us from showing up as the best versions of ourselves.
Here are 5 things you can do to stop imposter syndrome on its heels and send it packing.
1. Accomplishment Journal - Many of my clients write in an “Accomplishment Journal”, where everyday they record down the little and big successes. . Sometimes they are little things like "got through my meeting", or "connected with my direct reports”. Other times they are bigger items like "presented to my team" or "got a great promotional review". It does not matter the size of each achievement. What matters is that you create a list of the things you have done well. Concentrating on the positives startsto retrain your brain to not only see that you are successful but to believe it too!
2. Knock off comparisons - With social media putting so much at our fingertips to show a perfect, curated version of what others are doing, it is easy to start comparing yourself to whatever you are seeing and assigning meaning to it . Focus on measuring your own achievements!
3. Take the Feeling out of the Fact - When we are in any situation, especially if upset, we have a hard time separating the facts from the feelings. When facts and feelings are too wrapped up together, it makes our reactions less productive. If you take the time to separate the two you are able to have better outcomes. An example may be that when your employee was late you felt disrespected. This feeling, however, may not reflect the actual situation at all. If you respond to their tardiness from an emotional place, you may overreact with reprimands, build up resentment to the employee, lower morale, or just put yourself in a bad mood for no reason. . If you can deal with the facts of lateness without the feeling you will get a better result. Dealing with the facts often takes direct communication, like so, "I am curious why you were late today...In the future if your child misses the bus I would appreciate a text to let me know you will be late." At the end of the day, your emotions and facts should be working towards supporting the best possible results, so make sure they are working together and not undermining one another!
4. Talk about it - Connect with others to discuss your feelings. This may be a mentor, an affinity group or even a therapist. These discussions can help you realize that your feelings are normal but not necessarily rational l. They can help you recognize feelings and create new behaviors to get better results...and feel better doing it!
5. Visualize Success - Visualize exactly how you'll navigate the situation — successfully — before it happens. This is a tactic that is taught to military recruits, training them to visualize how they're going to handle a situation before it happens. Everyone does better when they have a script.
Most importantly remember that imposter syndrome comes from deep inside you. Just like changing your physical fitness, changing this belief inside you will take time and practice. The more you do it the better you will get at it. Before long you will feel less like an imposter and more like a true contributor.
When I think about imposter syndrome I like to remember this quote from Maya Angelou to put it into perspective. The prizewinning author once said, after publishing her 11th book, that every time she wrote another one she'd think to herself: "Uh-oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody."
At the end of the day, everyone who has ever had to do something new or stepped out of their comfort zone will feel like some kind of imposter. It's okay to not know everything or do everything perfectly every time, the key is to keep this in mind so you are not undermining your confidence.
Brenda is an executive leadership expert and works primarily with women in scientific fields (IT, medicine, engineering, left-brain type fields, etc). She focuses on increasing practical management skills as well as more intangible qualities like confidence, you can check out more about her work here if you're ever considering fluff-free leadership development methods: https://www.brendaloanbaker.com.