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Imposter syndrome and 6 steps to get over it.

Many high achievers share a dirty little secret …

They feel like complete frauds, and believe their accomplishments result from serendipitous luck.


Do you feel like you’re running a million miles per hour trying too hard to impress people and that you’ll very soon run out of talent? That you don’t you deserve the success you’ve got?


If that nagging internal conversation that you’re a fraud is a familiar one, you may have imposter syndrome.


What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of their competence[1]


Or, is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they're deserving of accolades.[2]


To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a fraud. You feel as though it’s going to be found out that you don't belong where you are, and that you only got there through luck, networking or networking nepotism.


Introduced in the 70s, imposter syndrome didn’t die out like flares. It is characterised by chronic feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and fraudulence despite objective success. Some of us find it hard to internalise or accept our success and genuinely hold onto the belief that we’re competent.


So what causes imposter syndrome?

Multiple factors include your personality trait, the ego playing in your mind, family background, and even culture.


There’s a tremendous pressure to be an achiever and successful, and as Paloma Faith sang, “it’s all about the go! Go! Go!” it’s no wonder why we get this way.


Who gets it?

Anyone and everyone gets imposter syndrome to some degree.


Whilst there’s most likely a scientific study that concludes there is a 50/50 split between the two sexes, it’s scarce for a man to approach us with this issue.


Maybe women are more attuned to this kind of thing, i.e. asking for help when they are aware. Does this make women more intelligent than men? I’ll save that topic for another day.


The effects of imposter syndrome can be debilitating and can lead to a drop in job performance, job satisfaction and increased anxiety and depression. Which only increases the volume of that naughty voice in your head.


How do you get over imposter syndrome?


While imposter syndrome can be a huge roadblock for those who want to progress in their careers, it doesn’t have to be persistent - if you take the right action.


Luckily, there are a few tried and tested techniques that you can start using today to help combat that negative internal monologue that holds you back.


Pause

Sit down, and with your favourite beverage, reflect on what you’ve accomplished, breathe and become more mindful. Whenever you see an elite athlete, F1 driver, gymnast, tennis player, or weight lifter, they all pause, take a breath and quiet themselves. They then perform to the very best of their ability.


Every time you negatively think about your abilities or wonder if you’re qualified for a job, pause and ask yourself: Is the idea actually (truly) accurate? Is this emotional experience real, or am I responding based on other outside variables? Does this thought help or hinder me?


Think

It helps to think about your beliefs and your emotions. Why do you have that belief in the first place? What emotion does a particular incident give you? That supercomputer in your head needs to be reprogrammed. I’m not belittling that activity, it can take a long time. I know. I’ve experienced it myself but once you start to accept success, it becomes an amazing feeling.


Embrace Success

If you have imposter syndrome, it can be tempting to invalidate even the most minor win. Resist that urge by listing every success and allowing them to resonate emotionally. Over time, this practice will give you a realistic picture of your accomplishments and help affirm your self-worth.


Talk It Out

Whether it’s your coach, mentor, or friend, talk to someone else about your feelings. Getting an outside perspective can bring you back to reality and help eliminate that irrational belief.


Give yourself a little love.

Celebrate your achievements, strive for tranquillity and get on the self-confidence train.


Move away from external validation. No one should have more power to make you feel good about yourself than you!


It is okay to have a high standard but see yourself as a work in progress. Accomplishing great things involves lifelong learning and skill-building—for everyone, even the most confident people.


Stop beating yourself up when you don’t reach your impossibly high standards; identify specific, changeable behaviours that you can improve over time.


Ask for help. If you don’t know how to do something, ask someone. If you cannot work out a problem, get advice.


Mentoring junior colleagues or volunteering can be a great way to discover your inner expertise. When you share what you know, it benefits others and helps you heal your fraudulent feelings.


What if you need additional support?


Implementing these steps yourself may seem simple enough, but keeping on top of your imposter syndrome can be a challenge when there’s no one there to hold you accountable.

If self-doubt is something that’s hindering your personal life and career, it could be time to take action and get help.


That’s where Swush comes in.


Founded in 2019, Swush is a Leeds-based boutique consultancy providing executive and organisational transformation. We are trusted advisors in executive and organisational transformation matters with utmost discretion; to private, public and charity sector leadership.


By using proven training and tools, including behaviour profiling, mock interviews, digital presence reviews and tailored individual coaching, we'll empower you to overcome barriers like imposter syndrome that are stopping you from reaching your potential.

Of course, one size rarely fits all, so it all begins with a phone call. Not a 15 or 30 minute one though. We take time to give you the space you need to pause, breathe and reflect.


Contact us on 0113 468 4455.

[1] Harvard Business Review, May 2008 [2] Harvard Business Review, Feb 2021