“I still have a little [bit of] imposter syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me. It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously.”
I am pretty sure many people were shocked to hear Michelle Obama say that she still suffers from Imposter Syndrome. It didn’t shock me in the slightest. I have had some weeks where the feedback I receive is so positive it has made me cry with joy. I’ve been told that I’ve changed lives but I still have that nagging doubt that it wasn’t my doing despite the evidence to the contrary (and the emotional confirmation from my client). It’s entirely normal to feel that way, the fact that Michelle sometimes feels this way should tell you that no one, no matter how successful is immune.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are numerous ways to minimise it. Imposter syndrome after all can be debilitating and stop you getting ahead in your career and life in general. Its all very well me telling you how amazing you are but based on my own experiences, I know that you probably won’t take much notice. Here are 10 ways to manage and minimise the pesky devil on your shoulder that thinks you are a fraud.
Abandon perfection and don’t fear vulnerability
You aren’t perfect. No one is. If you have the belief that you can be, then you need to ditch the self importance and get real. If you don’t set impossible standards for yourself you will feel less like a fraud all the time. Striving for excellence when doing a specific task is a great trait. Striving for perfection in your life is colossal act of self-harm. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can also be a reality check. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human and people like this.
Accept your success
When something goes well many of us think “Great, now what next?”. Whoa there. Take a moment. Your focus might be the very thing that is causing you to feel like you aren’t worthy. If you have a big win, celebrate with a night out or a nice meal. Treating yourself can give you the time to think, and recognise that the reason why you are drinking seriously good gin is that you are seriously awesome.
Take note of the praise
If someone tells you how amazing you are you need to listen to them and process it properly. Getting compliments can be weirdly uncomfortable. Why do we strive to be liked yet when someone praises us we think they are mistaken at best, and at worst insincere? If someone takes the time to express gratitude for you it means you deserve it, its that simple. Write it down and refer back to it in low moments. It’s the fuel that can put out the imposter syndrome fire.
Focus on others and the outcome
I’ve said that I suffer from Imposter Syndrome myself. This happens mostly in quiet moments when I have time to think (always dangerous). It NEVER happens when I am in the middle of coaching someone or when I’m getting a call from a client who has got their dream career move. The reason why is that I am focusing on others and what I can do for them. If whoever you are helping doesn’t appreciate it or accept your help, then I can guarantee that the next person will. Seeing positive outcomes from sharing your knowledge or acts of kindness can be a game changer.
You think comparing yourself to a colleague or someone in the public eye helps? You know it really doesn’t so stop. As the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said “Envy is an insult to oneself.” And he is 100% right. There is nothing wrong with admiring someone and wanting to achieve the same level of success. But you can’t be them so stop trying. You are you. And the best thing is that these perfect people that you envy also suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and carry worries and burdens just as challenging as yours.
Recognise it (and tell yourself and someone else)
Say it out loud “I suffer from Imposter Syndrome”. Vocalising it will make you address WHY you feel this way and you can have a good think as to what has caused it and why it isn’t true. Telling someone you are close with is also a good tactic. There is a reason why they are laughing at you, it’s because they know you better than anyone, and they know how great you are. They will be understanding as to the WHY but will put you in your place as far as believing it goes.
Accept losing and admit your ignorance
So something went wrong….you didn’t get the job or you made a mistake in work that was plain stupid. Accept it. Ask yourself what you can learn from it and move on. Similarly, admitting that you don’t know everything is important. If you force yourself into a situation where you are talking about something you know little about then surprise surprise, you will feel like a fraud. I was recently asked to do a radio interview on a subject I knew very little about, I declined the invitation rather than sound like a fool. Its OK to say no, believe me you can save yourself a lot of stress and embarrassment.
Always remember that your death is inevitable
Depressing but true. So why would you rob the world of the real you and hold yourself back? You want to make sure that your Imposter Syndrome isn’t the source of your regrets. Thinking holistically about the purpose of the one life you get can help you identify when your fear of being a fraud is causing you to stall.
So you are feeling that you aren’t worthy? Then do something about it. If for instance you are thinking like this because you are ‘out of your depth’ at work – then examine what it is that you feel you don’t know or can’t do, and fix it. It can be overwhelming so do this in small bitesize actions. Training yourself and increasing your knowledge can condemn Imposter Syndrome effectively. It won’t change if you do nothing.
Accept that we are all constantly evolving our sense of self
Are you the same person, with the same outlook you were 5 or 10 years ago? I doubt it. We constantly evolve so you need to recognise that the YOU that you think you want to be isn’t a real person. It’s just an idea. After all, we are different things to different people and it is entirely normal. There is no definitive answer to who the real you is, just definitive goals. And the one thing that isn’t going to help you get there is Imposter Syndrome.