Time to take control of your imposter

If you’ve ever heard that little voice inside your head saying you can’t do something, aren’t good enough or there’s someone better than you, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from imposter syndrome.

The good news is, you’re in excellent company. Some very familiar faces have admitted to the fear of being “found out”, not least of all Maya Angelou. Her career spanned 50 years, winning critical acclaim and legions of fans. She was awarded multiple honorary degrees and industry awards but still felt “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

Other well-known individuals battling with their imposters include Tom Hanks, national treasure, Emma Watson, billionaire business person, Sheryl Sandberg and award winning writer, Neil Gaiman.

As the name suggests, imposter syndrome is both the feeling you are an imposter in your own life – that your successes are merely a matter of good fortune rather than the result of your skills and efforts – but also that there is an imposter sitting on your shoulder telling you you’re not good enough. For many people, imposter syndrome can be the single biggest barrier to success, both in life and in business.

Or, as Emma Watson put it: “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are’.”

So, could you be suffering from imposter syndrome?

  • I don’t believe I’m good enough
  • I feel as though I’m faking my abilities and am afraid of being found out
  • When good things happen, I put them down to good luck
  • I don’t put myself forward for new opportunities in case someone discovers I’m not good enough
  • I’m constantly comparing myself with others

Sound familiar? If they do, now is the time to take control of your imposter and manage it. Here’s how:

  1. Set your own success criteria. Tempting as it can be to compare yourself to others, don’t. So often I hear people comparing what they have in their life, where they are in life/ work to others, yet it’s a fruitless activity as no-one else ever has the same set of circumstances as you do. The only time it’s useful to look at someone else is to inspire you. Instead focus on figuring out what success looks like and means for you and what you need to do to achieve it.
  2. Challenge the negative self-talk. It’s so typical to analyse when something goes wrong but to just move on when something goes right. Flip that around, take the time to savour the good and bask in your successes to provide that inner critic with lots of positive examples. Check out Rick Hanson’s talk on Savouring the Good. He describes negative self-talk as like Velcro, sticking around, while positive self-talk is like Teflon, slipping off. Make your positive self-talk more Velcro.
  3. Get regular 360 feedback to check how people’s perceptions of you compare to your own. Author Tash Eurich in her book Insight explains that we are not great judges of ourselves and how by seeking feedback helps us to check out self- image with how others see us helping us to gain insight into ourselves and improve our self-awareness.
  4. Focus on the facts, not the feelings. Often our imposter is triggered by emotions so by focusing on facts you are able to ensure a more balanced way of looking at a situation. Did you meet your targets? Did you get good feedback? Did you achieve the objectives? Well done, you aced it. It wasn’t just good luck, you weren’t faking it. You did it!
  5. Ask yourself what the benefit is – ask yourself what the benefit of thinking/ feeling like this is – so often there is no benefit but we let our imposter in. When we do this it can undermine us, bring down our self-confidence and belief and deter us from achieving what we want. Don’t ignore it, acknowledge it but then don’t let it take control of you.

Next time your imposter appears and starts bringing you down. Check in with the language you’re using about yourself. We’re often our own worst critics, but we also have the power to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves the break we need.

And if you need a quick fix, I recommend power posing. Amy Cuddy gives a great Ted Talk on how your body language may shape who we are. Taking on a more powerful body shape really can change how positive and confident we feel and challenge that imposter so it doesn’t hold us back from doing things outside our comfort zones.

Do you know your imposter? How do you control yours? Share your tips with me here.

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