And yes, welcome to summer! Well, almost. Did you get to enjoy that amazing weather at the beginning of the week? It felt like summer might actually be here. I really felt it spoke to new beginnings and, as I’m just making plans to relaunch my favourite training programme, it seemed that this was all aligned. (More to come about this later!!)
Back in 1980, a Swedish psychologist named Ola Svenson asked a cohort of American and then Swedish graduate students to rank their driving skills compared to their peers. It seems that 93% of the Americans said they were better than average, compared to a mere 69% of the Swedish students who thought they were better than average drivers.
You may or may not be a statistician but I imagine you completely understand that in a typical population, average is the mid point, equal numbers are above and below that average point… It’s not possible for even 69% of that population to be above the average of that population let alone 93%…
This phenomenon, known as illusory superiority, is not universal. It is influenced by culture – many from East Asian cultures tend to have a more modest outlook and assume others are better than they are – and there are of course individual differences in how you perceive yourself.
Many very able women with deep experience and high levels of expertise consistently undervalue their own levels of achievement and contribution. They think they’re not as good as they should be and they may secretly wish they were even half as good as other people seem to think they are.
Does this sound a bit like you?
When people who demonstrably have skill and expertise feel they are not good enough, it’s often because they are affected by Imposter Syndrome feelings. Don’t worry that this means there’s something wrong with you. It might feel unpleasant and it may actually be unhelpful but it is, well, perfectly normal – or at least normal in the sense that research shows that 70% of people asked say that they too have these feelings. My point here is, don’t make this mean there’s something wrong with you.
In the same way as the American students asked about their driving skills, sometimes we need better and more helpful ways of getting accurate feedback on our skill levels or performance. Some of us consistently overestimate our ability, many are harsh judges of themselves and their work.
I’d love it if you decided to learn more helpful and realistic ways of assessing your ability and contribution. When you get feedback or comments from your peers do you reject their compliments because they’re just being nice to you? I imagine you respect them and trust their opinions when they’re talking about anything other than you or your expertise.
I’d be delighted if you treated yourself and your achievements in the same way as you’d treat a good friend – celebrating them appropriately when they happen.
I’m even going to ask you to tell me what you’re proud of at the moment – and I’d be delighted to hear of your successes!
Now I don’t want to get to the point where you’re thinking that everyone gets a medal for effort or a prize for simply showing up. I just know from experience that many of the people, and particularly many of the women who are drawn to me and my work will have very harsh Inner Critics and Self-Judges. I’ve got nothing at all against high quality work or having high standards and a drive towards self-improvement.
But wanting to be better doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up for not being good enough.
I’m reminded of the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce.”
So be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself.
And remember, it’s perfectly possible that any individual in a population actually is better than average. If you are affected by Imposter Syndrome feelings I’d think that was highly likely!
If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about find out more about Imposter Syndrome feelings by watching this video here:
And before you finish and tell me quickly, what is that you’re proud of?!
I can’t wait to hear.
PS: I’m relaunching Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions!!!
I finished the last programme delivery in November 2020 and promised a relaunch in spring 2021. I didn’t anticipate that we’d spend much of the next 6 months still under lockdown conditions nor the level of exhaustion many of us would feel as a result of that. But now, spring is here. summer might even have arrived and I’m ready to help you sort out your Imposter Syndrome feelings once more. Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions was designed as a four module programme with video content “drip fed” each week – but tell me – is that how you like your content delivered? Honestly, do you have a preference? Would you like all the content available on day one so you can watch it when you have time or do you like to have to wait for the next instalment to be released? I’d love to know – go on, tell me!