Have you ever felt anxious that you are not good enough? Felt like a fraud? That regardless of all the certificates decorating your walls, the trophies lining your cabinets, the accolades behind your name, you know nothing, and that sooner or later you will be exposed? Well you’re not the only one.
David Bowie, Maya Angelou, Tom Hanks, all leading figures in their industries, have felt the same:
“I really felt so utterly inadequate” – David Bowie
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out” – Maya Angelou
“How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?” – Tom Hanks
At some point in their celebrated careers, each one of them has/had suffered from ‘imposters syndrome’.
Imposters syndrome is the feeling of constantly doubting yourself, your talents, your abilities and living with the fear that you will be exposed as a ‘fraud’, regardless of your accomplishments. The phenomenon was introduced by psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes back in 1978 and I’ve attached a link for you to read up more about this phenomenon if you wish to do so.
Why, when we have the skills, the expertise, the know-how, do we feel this way?!
Me, the Imposter and I
I remember anxiously waiting for my turn in a room full of interviewees as I watched hopeful candidates walk out of the interview room with a long face. I had been working at this well-known call centre for a couple of years and was now going for a more senior role. I knew everything I needed for this new role, because I had been temporarily covering the position for the last six months. But still, deep inside the knots were tightening as each moment passed. By the time I entered the interview room I was 100% confident that they would blow my cover, call out my bluff for what it was. A fluke. I was a phoney, a fake and that by sheer ‘luck’ I had managed to succeed in my roles.
This couldn’t have been more further than the truth. I was good at my job, because I had the expertise, the knowledge and the talent, which combined ensured I succeeded. I couldn’t see this at the time, however – thankfully – the interviewers did, and I got the job.
It wasn’t the first or the last time I felt this feeling of being an imposter in my own success. I recall years later, feeling the same, when I was working as a taxi dispatcher. The firm was going through a tough busy period and I was managing dispatching to a fleet of 100 plus cars. As the most busiest week of the season came upon us, I recall the voice in my head telling me, ‘this is it…you are about to be found out for what you are’, I felt awful, the doubt in my mind was eating away at me.
How do we deal with this? This feeling that most people will feel at some point in their lives/careers and some will constantly be battling it. The first step is crucial.
First Step: TALK
Talk, talk, talk talk! Communicate your feelings. I cannot express how important this is. If you keep this feeling to yourself, it will eat away at you, like it did to me. In my case I turned to my sister, who I have continuously relied on for advice and support. A recent graduate in psychology, she introduced me to the term imposter syndrome. At that time when I was questioning my worth, she was able to talk to me about my many talents, highlight my skills and show me my worth.
It is hugely important that you are able to turn the negative thinking into positives, and whilst you nit-pick at all your faults, it is those that surround you that will be able to remind you of your many achievements and successes. Turn to your colleagues, your managers, your mentors, so that they can guide you back onto your path.
Second Step: BELIEF
Believe in yourself. You have come so far, you CAN continue on the same path and fulfil your ambitions. Take the positives that have been highlighted to you by those that you talk to and keep them in mind. Focus all your energy on them and when they fully encompass you, there will be no stopping you. You need that belief in your abilities; and remember those around you see these abilities day in day out, believe what they say. Believe in yourself.
Third Step: CONFIDENCE
Ooze confidence. You’ve doubted yourself, you’ve talked to those around you about your doubts, they have shown you your worth. You have changed your negative thinking into positive, by believing in your talents. Now move forward in confidence. Be confident in your abilities, take pride in your achievements. Remember everyone around you at some point will have had these very feelings that you are experiencing. The people you look up to, the people you aspire to be like, they too have felt the way you are feeling. They expressed their feelings, grasped the positives and took giant strides in confidence – you too can do this!
And if all else fails. Crack open that giant tub of chocolate ice-cream (or whichever flavour takes your fancy), take the biggest spoon you own and make some heavy dents in that giant tub of deliciousness.
I joke – have the ice cream but in proportion and after you’ve taken the above mentioned three steps. You deserve a treat after all
In all seriousness, we all could name at least one or two people in our lives that have doubted our ability, that will revel in our failures. So why do it to ourselves?! Let’s be our own cheerleaders. Recognise that these feelings can occur, this ‘imposters syndrome’ does exist, but we can battle through it and overcome it. Take those steps to rediscovering your worth and hold on to it tight!
I hope this blog has helped you if you are feeling this way. Comment below to share your experiences and your tips? Have you ever felt this way? How did you overcome it? What did you do? Please do share, I look forward to reading your comments.