This month in my Facebook group we are looking at Imposter Syndrome, how it has affected us and what we can do to support ourselves and challenge our mind-set over it. Imposter syndrome is when you believe that you are not as competent as you believe despite evidence of success. This can result in you feeling as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud or you “feel like a phoney”.

Even though events go well, you have a productive meeting or a presentation is successful this doesn’t change your fear of being found out. This can cause stress, anxiety, low self-confidence etc which in turn means that you may shy away from further pushing yourself, trying out new things or exploring new opportunities.

I first really experienced this 10 years ago when I started my first role managing an HR team and for the first 6 months I was waiting for someone to find me out, that I shouldn’t have been hired. I didn’t lie in my interview, I was open and honest about my experience; but it was a step up and being out of my comfort zone was tough for those first few months.

Where does Imposter Syndrome come from:

As with a lot of things that affect our beliefs, behaviours, etc as adults our childhood will often have an impact, for example being brought up in a family that highly valued achievement or having parents who flip back and forth between praising and criticising. Alternatively it could come from labels placed on us as children or ones we learn to associate with ourselves and despite evidence to the contrary we hold onto those labels, for example “I am not good at maths”, “I am not creative”, “I am not a leader”, “I can’t do….. [fill in the gap]“.

Equally it can be triggered by a change in life events, such as starting University or a promotion at work. For me it came out with a new role which was a step up from what I had done previously and my perfectionism and high expectations on myself became even stronger.

I also think the constant ability to compare ourselves to others can also bring out imposter syndrome. Being able to see the “social media” lives of others (which many use to present an “image”) which can lead us to feel other people are more successful than us, better than us etc.

How to help yourself if you are dealing with this:

These are my top tips for dealing with imposter syndrome:

Get support – share how you are feeling with others, when I did after my own experience I was amazed by how many other people felt the same way. On top of which talking about how we feel about situations rather than holding this in often helps us to feel better about it and see things from a different perspective.

Stop the comparisonitis (I know it’s not a word but it should be!!) – the more we compare ourselves to others the less we feel comfortable with ourselves and our own achievements. For those of us who can remember the pre-social media days there was far less of this as your comparison group was on a much smaller scale; after all  you didn’t have constant reminders of other people’s achievements available 24/7 on your phone.

Reframe – remind yourself that this may be something that you are currently feeling but it doesn’t mean it is who you are and think of other achievements you have made to remind yourself of your abilities and successes.

Visualise your success – what will it look like, what will be happening, how will it make you feel. This starts your mind getting used to the change happening successfully and reduces the fight against it as it starts to accept it as a reality.