How to tackle imposter syndrome

Posted on 10/7/2017 by Katherine Memery

Do you ever worry that you’re not talented enough to be doing your job? Are you afraid that you’ll be ‘found out’ and your boss, colleague or prospective employer will ultimately decide that you’re not good enough?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you might be suffering from imposter syndrome. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to research in the International Journal of Behavioural Science, 70% of people feel exactly the same way.

Unfortunately, imposter syndrome, commonly described as ‘a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill’, can strike at any time. If not handled in the right way, these feelings of anxiety and doubt can be destructive. They might put you off from applying for a promotion, interviewing for a new role or beginning an important project because of fear of failure.

There are, however, a number of ways you can ensure that you use them to your advantage to help you thrive rather than flail in the workplace.

1.      Be aware of your thoughts and recognise symptoms

Men and women of all ages struggle with professional insecurity. Interestingly, it’s those higher up the corporate ladder, who tend to struggle the most. Because the success of these high-achievers distances them from everyone else and means that they have more to lose, they feel more anxious about failure.

If you start to feel insecure at work, understand why you might be experiencing this insecurity. Thinking about what you’ve achieved so far, do your best to put these feelings of doubt to the back of your mind and focus on the task at hand.

2.      Record, reflect on and own your successes

Many of us are so worried about how we are perceived by others that we gloss over our achievements, paint a flawed picture of our careers and convince ourselves that we’re undeserving of our success.

Making a list of what you’ve achieved weekly, monthly or annually, will give you a record of your accomplishments and help you prove to yourself that you’re worthy.

It’s also important to remember the hurdles that could have stopped you from achieving success but didn’t. While you might not believe it, you didn’t end up in your current position because of luck; you succeeded because of your hard work, determination and talent.

3.      Make a note of positive feedback

When you receive complimentary feedback, write it down so you don’t forget it. Take screenshots of proof that you’re doing well, such as client testimonials or articles and make a file of emails or messages from colleagues that praise your good work. Revisiting these when you’re struggling will help to boost your confidence and encourage you to keep going.

4.      Only act on constructive criticism

We all receive criticism from time to time, but it’s essential not to dwell on these comments unless you can learn from them. Only act on negative feedback if will help you to improve, don’t alter your style to please unhelpful critics.

5.      Stop comparing yourself to other people

In today’s social-media obsessed world, you’ll always find someone who’s doing what you’re doing but doing it better. Rather than comparing yourself with other people, focus on yourself and continue to do your best.

If there’s someone you look up to in your firm, be open with them about how you’re feeling. Watch how they handle their own success and ask them how they deal with failure.

6.      Embrace the fear and keep going

It’s natural to have lapses in confidence sometimes, but it’s important to remember that most of the people around you are in the same boat. Learn to think of your imposter syndrome as a strength and use your feelings of insecurity as a motivational tool.

If you think people might doubt your ability, work that extra bit harder to prove them wrong. Use your fear of failure as a reassurance that you’re on the right track. Continue what you’re doing and be yourself; you’re better than you think you are.

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