How to stop feeling like a fraud and beat Imposter Syndrome
I had a prickly sensation run down my back, I started sweating and my mind said I didn’t deserve to be there. This was the whole body reaction I had to a speaking gig I landed a couple of years ago.
I was running a Mindfulness & Meditation workshop for a large government department and I felt great going in. But when I walked in a couple of things happened. The MC turned out to be the newsreader I’d grown up with and admired for much of my life, some of the audience members had been on TV (in my mind this made them more important) and I overheard someone say that the guy in charge of this 80 person team was not really into this ‘woo woo’ type of stuff. In that moment, I crumbled. I felt like a total fraud.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I was on a Women in Leadership panel. The room was full of senior executive women and after I spoke, they all made comments about how they identified with feeling like they’d be ‘found out’ for not knowing enough. While I was there to talk about self-doubt, it was such a reminder that no matter where you sit in the pecking order, that imposter syndrome can get you.
Imposter syndrome is ‘a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud"’. Basically, it’s feeling like a fake when you’re actually adequately qualified or experienced. It’s a stuck, sweaty, paralysing feeling and many high achieving women have felt this at some point.
What does Imposter Syndrome look like in the everyday?
· Feeling anxious and out of your depth despite being very well prepared
· Not applying for a more senior role for fear of not being selected
· Not speaking up in a meeting because you might get a challenging question you don’t know the answer to
· Feeling like a phony despite adequate experience and knowledge
If we don’t acknowledge and sort this out, there are high chances that we’ll sabotage our careers or businesses growth, become more anxious and not reach our full potential.
So what can we do about it?
Gone are the days when acting like the razzed up sales-y real estate guy to pump ourselves up actually works. Thumping yourself on your chest to say, “You’re the best manager that ever lived! No one compares to you!” actually doesn’t work. It might have tiny, short lived effect but basically it doesn’t stick and can make us feel like even more of a fraud.
Inspired by author Dan Pink, what I personally do and teach my clients to implement is to (1) identify the fear, (2) question it directly and (3) address that question.
Using this formula, in the government workshop I described above, I firstly identified that I was super nervous that people would think my workshop was crap. Then I formulated a question about that fear, “Why do I deserve to be up on that stage?” and asked myself it. I then prompted myself to give five solid responses to that question. These were things like “they invited me to speak at this event, the organiser has seen me talk on this topic before, I have written a global program on this exact topic, I have been meditating and doing yoga for 18 years and I run a successful life coaching practice”.
Now doing this process doesn’t make you feel like you’re invincible but it does neutralise the fear. In my example, it allowed me to get up on that stage and deliver a great workshop. Often when you’re formulating your question, it will be related to ‘deservedness’. So your questions will probably sound something like “Why do I deserve to be interviewed for this job?”, “Why do I deserve to present my ideas to my team?”, “Why do I deserve to have my book published?”.
This process has revolutionised how I quash self doubt and maintain momentum and I’d love it to do the same for you. Give it a go and know that it might be a bit fumbly at first, but press on! I’d love to know how you go with implementing it.