Welcome to the club.
To be clear, feeling like an impostor doesn’t mean you are one. On the contrary. Some of the most successful, accomplished people suffer from it. Think Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg or Tina Fey.
So you’re in great company.
In all seriousness though, impostor syndrome is not a helpful feeling. Described by US academics Rose Clance and Suzanne Ament Imes in 1978 as an ‘internal experience of intellectual phoniness’, where people believe they have tricked others into thinking they are more capable than they really are, it can be quite the obstacle to overcome.
- Stop you in your tracks when you’re pursuing important goals
- Stop you from enjoying your wins
- Stop you from putting your hand up for exciting opportunities
- Stop you from trying things that might fail.
Generally impostor syndrome shows up when you’re doing something that challenges you. Something that signals to your brain that you’re not staying in ‘your lane’. Whether it’s a new job, a new project, or simply the day-to-day of being a leader when no one else in your family has reached that level, you might get a nagging sense that you don’t belong, that you’ll be found out.
The first step in trying to overcome it is becoming aware of it. And questioning it. Is what I am saying really true?
The truth is, impostor syndrome may never leave you completely. But there are things you can do that give it less control.
So how do we overcome these feelings?
Take control of your self talk and focus on our accomplishments and our sense of purpose.
Instead of changing the goalposts, whenever you achieve something, stop and celebrate the achievement. I’m certainly guilty of quickly moving to ‘I could have done it better’. Instead try to consciously stop to asess and celebrate achievements, compliments, wins. In fact, stash away compliments for moments when the impostor shows up.
Try to stay out of the comparison trap, a sure way to fuel the impostor. Run your race.
If you know you have a perfectionist streak, be aware of when that gets unhelpful and lends itself to impostor feelings.
And while you try to keep the impostor in check, don’t forget to be kind to yourself.