The mindset I am referring to is known as Imposter Syndrome. I am calling it a ‘mindset’ for lack of a better term, you see, Imposter Syndrome is not a health disorder, it is a skewed perception of yourself.
You may have heard of Imposters Syndrome already as there has been quite a bit of discussion about it in the public domain. Many celebrities including Kate Winslett, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Ryan Reynolds, and Meryl Streep to name but a few, have all admitted to sharing this mindset. For those of you who haven’t yet heard about it, here is the low-down:
Imposter Syndrome (aka Imposter Phenomenon, Imposterism or Fraud Syndrome) is a mindset where an individual, doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Despite all evidence to the contrary, those experiencing this do not believe they deserve all they have achieved, instead, that it is the result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent or capable than they are.
While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, it has since been recognised to affect both men and women equally.
You may be wondering why I have chosen this as our subject for today over all others, but it actually cropped up this week from somewhere I least expected it.
I know this guy, he is super successful in his line of work and anybody you ask would agree that he certainly deserves everything he has achieved.
The other day we were talking about life, ambition, career direction the universe and all that fun stuff, no different to one of our usual conversations really except for one surprising revelation. He was feeling particularly reflective and admitted to harbouring persistent feelings of doubt regarding his abilities. He was questioning whether he even deserved the opportunities that had come his way. This wasn’t just false modesty, he was genuinely speaking from the heart. He really did feel this way.
I was absolutely dumbstruck! This guy is what I would call a Demigod in his field and here he was talking about how he was just waiting for someone to realise that he wasn’t who they thought he was, so it could all come crashing down around him. While I was trying my best to reassure him that this is just self-doubt talking, perhaps he is just having a bad day or needs to take a break, I was wondering how he had got inside my head. Did he know that I also, quite often, feel this way? Is it that obvious?
You see, I've worked in some pretty cool job roles in my time. I have been lucky enough to work for some of the most well-known brands, many of which you and I use every day to keep up with our friends and share pictures of our cats doing funny things. But while I was always grateful for the opportunities I was always a little bit bewildered that they had even come my way. A few times I had to double-check that there wasn't another Caree, one that they had intended to hire but ended up with me instead.
Where does all this come from? My rational mind knows that I worked hard for the positions, I put everything I had into every job and yet I would still glance over my shoulder, waiting for someone to say “Caree, you shouldn't be here, leave now”.
On the surface you seem to have it all together, but what people fail to see are the telltale signs, they don’t pay attention where you are trying to talk them out of hiring you or assigning you a task. In your mind you are saving them from placing too much trust in someone who is literally coasting on luck and a shoestring, from their perspective, you are merely being modest.
It is like you have two conflicting perspectives. On one hand you know you could probably handle the job. You could coast it like always and most likely pull it off. But there is also that little voice that tells you that you are being over confident, to sit back down and let the grown-ups handle it before someone realises that you’re a fraud.
I can't tell you how to fix this twisted way of thinking because I have clearly not yet nailed it either. I wake up every day and wonder just how I got lucky enough to do this job, but I have found some advice and tips on how to manage it that I wanted to share with you;
1. Highlight your achievements.
Have a think about your most recent accomplishments, what have you achieved, big and small. There are no rules here, just grab a pen and paper and start jotting down some of the things you have done. You will be tempted to put a little note next to each one justifying why it wasn’t down to you, but do resist the temptation, this is just a reminder of how awesome you are for when you need it.
2. Remember why
No pen and paper required for this one, it is just an exercise where you have a think about all of the people who had a part to play in your career in one way or another. This is where you remind yourself that the part they had to play was not just down to a minor lapse in otherwise impeccable judgement. They had confidence in you for a reason, all you have to do is remember what that was.
Write your statement – This is most important!
Write a personal (unique) statement that serves as an affirmation of who you are, without all of the creeping self-doubt. This exercise alone will help you to see yourself without the self-sabotage and document it. Once you have it down you can use it for reflection on your feeling like a fraud days, or as a pep talk on your Go get ‘em days. I actually wrote a blog post recently called How to write a personal statement. Click over there to get some tips on how to get started.
The good news is that, if you too have a tendency towards Imposters Syndrome then you can take solace in the fact that it is usually the most successful people who feel this way so, by default, you must be doing something right!
I think I am going to focus most of my attention on tip number 3. Highlighting your achievements in number 1 is harder than you might think, especially for someone who is prone to brushing off anything remotely good. Number 2 is just a thought exercise so I can do that while sat in traffic, brushing my teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil. But Number 3, that’s the one I think holds the most reoccurring value.
I am off now to have a go at the statement and try to teach myself how to enjoy a more secure, self-celebratory attitude every day. If you too give this a go then I would love to hear how you get on, email me at Caree.R@bluearrow.co.uk and let me know.
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