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Do you REALLY have imposter syndrome?

By August 29, 2022June 29th, 2023No Comments

Lacking confidence and experiencing “imposter syndrome” is common.

The majority of women who come to work with me 1-1 say they have experienced imposter syndrome.
These are generally ambitious, high achieving, kind, hardworking, brilliant women – who on meeting them, and certainly on paper appear extremely well qualified and competent in what they do – there is certainly no reason why their skills, talents and accomplishments are to be doubted. And yet they doubt themselves regularly.

They over-work, overachieve and people please! In an attempt to ensure that they aren’t “found out.”

Over time, these high standards, long hours and consistently trying to keep everyone happy leads to exhaustion, resentment and even lower levels of confidence in our ability to keep all the plates spinning – and so the cycle continues.

But is this really our fault? Is it something that needs “fixing”?

Research has shown that doubt and feelings of uncertainty are very normal reactions to new situations.

I sometimes fear that confidence is becoming like diet culture – an industry making millions and billions of pounds by offering a solution (paid for, of course) to the perceived flaw of lack of confidence?

Or has it actually come about due to the systemic biases that mean that women often need to work harder to demonstrate their professionalism and competence in the workplace compared to men?

The subtle and not so subtle exclusion of women in certain environments, particularly for women of colour and trans-women creates a very real experience of feeling like an imposter.

And societal gender inequality definitely plays a role.

Meaning that women in heterosexual relationships are often responsible for the decisions and day to day management of the home – meaning we take on additional, often unseen, responsibilities – weighing on our time, energy and cognitive and emotional load – not to mention parenting and caregiving roles.

So – no matter what we are led to believe – it’s not you – it’s the system.  There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling like this. 
But if it’s not me, what can I do about it?  
The hope is that over time, we can create a shift in the systems and cultures that means that women no longer experience the inequalities that dig away at our confidence and  lead us to feel like imposters.
But this takes time. In the meantime, we can work on what is within our control -which often means acknowledging these systemic factors and the impact they have on us – whilst working on what is in the realm of our control –  our personal relationship to imposter syndrome and confidence.

My questions for you are:

  • Where and how does imposter syndrome show up for you?
  • What are the external factors influencing this ( for example – lack of support from colleagues/community, insufficient feedback, juggling too many things to feel present)
  • What part of this experience is due to “normal” doubt and fears about doing something new or challenging? How is this doubt and fear just doing it’s job to protect you from uncertainty?
  • What are 3 practical things you could do to reduce your experience of imposter syndrome? If you aren’t sure – try journalling about this, or here are some suggestions:  
My experience of working with clients with imposter syndrome (and myself!) is that it isn’t about one single solution, it’s about developing practices that help us develop a relationship with our doubt and build our self belief over time -and this is supported by the evidence in this area. The Upfront podcast is an excellent resource for this – I particularly recommend this episode.  

4 practical things you can do to grow your self belief and beat imposter syndrome

  • Set up a coffee chat with a supportive peer or colleague – sharing with someone in a similar position or experience can bolster our mood and relationships, helping us to build our self belief.
  • Look back at positive feedback you have received from colleagues, clients etc – concrete evidence you are doing a good job. If you don’t already collate this feedback somewhere – start doing it now!
  • Create a celebrations list – every Friday add 3 things you are proud of or that have gone well – the list will soon grow.
  • Recall an experience where you felt confident. How did it feel, how did you behave? What happens to your posture when you recall this experience? Come back to this embodiment of confidence whenever you are feeling unsteady.  
  • Remember – it’s not about NOT doubting yourself – it’s about accepting that you can do the thing despite having self doubt.

If you’d like some support in working through this process you can book a 1-1 with me here.