Ten strategies to beat Imposter Syndrome
A four-minute read
If you’re an HR professional frustrated by the lack of women putting themselves forward for promotion in your workplace, it may well be that they don’t even feel equipped to do their current role.
When KPMG surveyed high performing female executives in the US, 75% of them said they’d experienced so-called Imposter Syndrome, the belief that you’re not as competent as others think you are and you don’t deserve the success you have achieved. When I asked my social media followers the same question (below), 73.5% said Yes.
You may have experienced it yourself – the sweaty palms and dry mouth when you’re about to give a presentation or brief the boss about a project. Surely this will be the time you’re found out, when your flimsy credibility will be swept away?
These feeling of self-doubt are all too common among women, in particular, and can not only hold us back but affect the way we perform. Classic signs are working overlong hours but berating your performance. Or shying away from making crucial decisions and avoiding direct communication with colleagues.
None of those is conducive to a happy worker – or workplace. Productivity and morale can drop, team members leave, and the woman herself doesn’t achieve her potential. I’ve put together 10 strategies to successfully overcome the Imposter Within:
1. You’re not alone
Even Michelle Obama suffers from Imposter Syndrome, saying: “It doesn’t go away…. I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.” We’ve all had days when our inner voice has been our most critical. Ask yourself, if that voice were a friend, would you actually still have that friend in your life? Probably not. So why allow yourself to be so affected and influenced by the horrible, damaging things you say to yourself?
If you’re an HR professional, be supportive of anyone who isn’t confident of their own ability. Recognise and praise achievement and reassure when self-doubt kicks in. It can be lonely for women at the top of the professional pyramid so make peer support groups available, too.
2. Own it
Some are happy enough with the label, others don’t like it. Whatever you call it, it brings you into a community of people, men included, who have been open enough to admit these feelings, recognise the patterns and equip themselves with the choice to do something about it. There are lots of resources out there to help you… talk to your boss, supportive friends and colleagues or, if you’re also feeling anxious or depressed, your GP.
If you’re in HR, keep the door open and be ready with strategies like these to help.
3. Visualise a Confident You
What does a more confident you look like? What does it feel like? What does it give you that you don’t have now? By starting with the end in mind, so much easier to work backwards and break down the goal into smaller more manageable chunks to take the action steps needed to get you to where you want to be. “It’s hard to score without a goal”.
4. Work on your Game Face
I’m not a fan of the “Fake it ‘til you make it” approach. For me, its lack of authenticity is incongruent and can induce internal conflict. Instead, visualise a swan, swimming gracefully on the surface of the water, whilst their feet are going crazy below. So many of us are doing it. So perfect the art of external confidence and togetherness, whilst dealing with clients, for example, but give yourself time to acknowledge the internal stuff too.
5. Fact or Feeling?
For the internal stuff, ask yourself a simple question. Is this feeling or fact? Put another way, where is the EVIDENCE that you are as useless as you tell yourself or that you are not up to the job etc? If colleagues or clients offer praise, listen to them and take note. Adopt their language rather than repeated negative thoughts about yourself. By shining a light on your successes you will soon see that you are competent, worthy and have important skills to celebrate and replicate.
6. Positive Focus
Focus on the things you are grateful for in life, and to use positive affirmations as a tool to re-enforce that you are enough: “You got this” and so on. You might want to go a step further and actually collate a ‘brag book’ by collecting every bit of positive feedback you have had as good evidence that you are “Da wo-Man”. Surround yourself with people who help you feel good about yourself and distance yourself from those who don’t. And accept that you’re not always in your comfort zone. Someone might know more than you – but that diversity of voice is what makes a successful workplace.
7. Avoid Comparisons
Comparing yourself or your performance with other people often causes jealousy and resentment which is energy-sapping. It’s also often misplaced: think of that swan floating along serenely… the chances are they’re flapping away like mad beneath the surface, just like you.
8. Give Back
Become a mentor for more junior colleagues to reinforce your own depth of knowledge. When you help others, you also shift your focus beyond and outside of yourself on to others, experience the “helper’s high” – and find external validation for the fact that you ARE skilled, experienced and a good friend.
Accept all feedback isn’t going to be good – and if it isn’t to your liking find ways to dis-attach yourself from what is said. After all, “it’s not what life does to you that matters, but what you do with what life does to you” – right? So own the choice to take negative feedback onboard and see it as a point of learning as opposed to actual failure. What opportunities are there here to upskill? Which external resources might I need to rely upon to equip me to develop and grow?
It’s not only top athletes who have coaches! Mentors and in-house coaches can be invaluable for helping you see past blind spots and push you forward. Use their support and guidance to empower your awareness, choice and positivity, so you reach the outcomes you desire and the success that you deserve!
Nikki Alderson Biography
Nikki Alderson, specialist Corporate & Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker & Best Selling Author, & former Criminal Barrister with 19 years’ experience,
- supports organisations, law firms & barristers’ Chambers to retain female talent; &
- empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.
Nikki specialises in 3 areas:
- Women Leadership Transition & Change;
- Enhanced Career break returner support; &
- Workplace resilience, confidence & wellness.
She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching , (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX) nominee for the Inspirational Women Awards, Champion of the Year Category & finalist in the 2019 International Coaching Awards, International Coach of the Year Category.
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