Imposter Syndrome feelings for some people are maybe a mild inconvenience, for many more, a source of ongoing stress and anxiety. It can also affect career progression as people who report Imposter Syndrome feelings often don’t progress as far or as fast as colleagues who are equally experienced, equally qualified, but are not affected by Imposter feelings.
Earlier in my career before I understood how to manage my Imposter feelings there were occasions when I dared to confide to friends or colleagues that I’ve felt like a bit of an Imposter. Their response was often, “Margaret, you know, you’re good at what you do. You know what you’re doing. You just need a bit more confidence!”.
But is that what it’s about? Personally I think that Imposter Syndrome is not quite the same as lacking self confidence.
I created a Facebook live on exactly that theme: Why confidence alone won’t conquer your ImposterWatch here!
Confidence – we normally get confidence by seeing ourselves do something. We learn something by practice and as we practice more often, we get better at doing it and the more we do it, the better we get, the more our confidence builds. That’s sort of how it works.
And yet I know so many women who have experience of doing things, and when asked about that experience they say, “Well, no, not much, really. And I’m not so sure. I haven’t done it very often.” and we often apologise and downplay and even undermine ourselves.
And in fact, for people affected by Imposter feelings, success often makes things feel even worse. Imposters often feel that other people over-value their skills or achievements. Other people are just being kind to us. We don’t quite know how we managed to fool them or why they have this “over-inflated” opinion of us but… every time we manage to avoid falling flat on our face we then have the feeling that, next time, the fall from grace will be even more shameful.
Now, I don’t think this is how we were born but maybe it’s how we’ve learned to be through socialisation, as we’re growing up. Good girls don’t show off.
But this constant undermining ourselves, it’s not helping us, it’s not actually helping the world.
If we were more confident about the skills that we could use, then we, the world, our colleagues, our businesses, our organisations would also benefit. So how do we change this?
Perhaps people affected by Imposter Syndrome feelings are maybe not very good at judging the evidence of what they have achieved?
Have you ever seen someone, maybe deliver a presentation, do a job or write and prepare a report, and a colleague sees that, reads that assesses the work, it’s a “D’ya know what, that was really good, well done”. and the person who did the delivering immediately bats away the compliment and says, “Oh, no, no, it really wasn’t that good because I meant to say… and I completely forgot to mention… and I should’ve done…”. And so they’ve been offered a compliment on a plate and yet, they don’t seem willing, they don’t seem able to accept it.
By batting back the compliment offered we are, often unwittingly, being anything other than gracious. We are in effect, telling the other person that we don’t value their compliment and in fact we don’t even trust their judgement… If ever you’ve had someone do that to you I’m sure you’ll know exactly what I mean and how it feels to be dismissed in that way.
So next time someone pays you a compliment, resist the urge to bat it away. If you respect the person making the compliment, if you trust their judgement simply take a moment to take a deep breath, to pause and smile, and return a gracious “Thank you”. Then at the earliest opportunity, write down what they said, make a note of it, keep a record – this will be part of the evidence record you can collect of the times that I did something good, the times that people I trust or respect noticed… and maybe you’ll begin to believe the evidence!
You might need more than confidence to conquer your Imposter but having an evidence file of the nice things that people have said to you or about you will certainly help!
Let me know what you start to notice.