Have you ever felt like a fake or a fraud? Perhaps you have felt like everyone in the room questions your ability. Your credentials. Your worth.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Imposter Syndrome!
I find this topic a very common theme in a number of my coaching conversations. Particularly how our Imposters show up. Where they show up. And what they do to us when they do show up.
What I have found really interesting through my conversations is that although the theme of Imposter Syndrome is the same - "a recurring emotional experience that leads us to believe we are undeserving, a fake or a fraud”, the way it manifests itself in people is very different. I became really curious about this and started researching it a bit more.
In some fantastic work done by Dr. Carolyn Goerner, here is what I have found.
There are 4 key types of Imposters that eat away at us.
You may identify with more than one, but it is highly likely you’ll gravitate to one type more than others.
Imposter # 1 -The Perfectionist – This is the kind of Imposter that sees absolutely any mistake or error as a sign of weakness. Your weakness. You are weak. And therefore, you are a fraud, and people know it. And you couldn’t possibly let people see that. So, you prepare. You over-prepare. You spend countless hours ensuring that every little detail is covered. Sound familiar? If you think this might be you, ask yourself these questions:
- When you do make a mistake, do you have trouble moving on from it quickly? Do you hold onto it and beat yourself up about it, yet if the mistake were made by someone else, you wouldn’t have thought twice about it?
- Are you generally someone who over-prepares for meetings or presentations and feels the need to ensure that every little detail is perfect?
Imposter #2 – The Workaholic – This little beauty feels the need to be a superhero in order to prove that they are competent. To prove they are worthy. The Workaholic Imposter will often be the first in the office or the last to leave, believing that if they just keep working and delivering that people won’t notice they are a fake. That they don’t deserve to be there. This Imposter couldn’t possibly ask for help, ever, because asking for help means they will be seen as incompetent. So, they must work harder and harder to get it all done. If this resonates with you, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel pressured to work longer hours or harder than everyone else in order to keep up?
- Do you also seek out more responsibilities or projects even when your plate is already full to the brim so as to appear more capable?
Imposter #3 – The Natural Genius – This Imposter believes that new things should always be easy to learn and that they should be able to grasp new skills quickly and with ease. Why? Because obviously everyone else does, right? According to this Imposter, yes, they do. The natural genius imposter believes that if they were as intelligent as everyone else that things wouldn’t feel as hard as they do, therefore they don’t deserve to be where they are. They are a fraud and are convinced that people must know it. If this is all feeling a little familiar to you, then ask yourself these questions:
- Do you give up on things that don’t come easily to you or feel hard?
- Are you ashamed to admit how long something may take you to learn or to grasp because you worry people will think you are incompetent or stupid?
- Do you assume that others are always able to pick up new skills with ease?
Imposter #4 – The Expert – Our 4th Imposter believes that knowledge is power. That more knowledge is always the answer. They believe that they must know everything before they can do something, or before they can put themselves forward for something. If they do just one more course. Get one more degree. Finish one more year in the job then they will know enough. And, if they know enough, they are worthy. I see this one a lot, particularly in women, and I firmly believe it is one of the biggest things that stops us from seizing career opportunities. If this Imposter resonates with you, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you feel like you must know everything before you can commit to something confidently?
- Do you continue to seek out more training even though others may say to you that your current credentials and qualifications are enough?
Although there are certainly other ways in which our Imposter can show up and try to derail us, these are certainly the 4 that I see show up the most.
You might be sitting there now thinking “Great – I know which one of these I am, but now what do I do about it?”.
Well, my friend, here is the good news.
Imposter Syndrome is manageable AND you are in seriously great company.
People like Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey and even Meryl Streep have all been open about their experiences with Imposter Syndrome and how it has held them back over the years until they were able to start managing it properly.
Here is where you can start….
- Call it what it is – Imposter Syndrome.
- Now, understand where this Imposter shows up. What are you doing when she starts talking to you? Who is there? What does this voice say to you? What stories does she tell you about yourself? It is so important to understand the key themes that surround our Imposter in order to manage her.
- Visualise her. What would she look like? Name her. And every time she shows up, tell her (by name) to F*ck right off. Yes, I am serious about this. The objective here is to strengthen your rational voice that knows you are worthy, and can see your unique strengths and achievements and override or silence the Imposter voice.
- Collect the facts and deal in reality. When your Imposter does show up and tries to dampen your spirit or tell you that you that you aren’t worthy or capable, remind yourself of all the reasons that you are. Keep a list of your achievements, your unique strengths, and keep evidence of your positive contributions so that you can read these each time you need to when your Imposter is a little louder than you would like her to be.
Finally, Stick with it. You are re-training your brain here, so this will take time. Be kind to yourself.
Helping women learn to manage their Imposter is my jam and just quietly, I am pretty good at it! If you feel like that little voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough or that you are a fraud is getting louder and is impacting your own career success, get in touch with me. I’d love to help you kick her a** once and for all.