Imposter Syndrome, first described over 40 years ago in women who were evidently high achievers with a certifiable academic track record but who were very anxious that they would be found out to be a fraud.
Imposter Syndrome feelings are still very relevant today and it struck me how there are many similarities with a very recent affliction, Covid-19.
Let me share my thoughts!
Both are very widespread, affecting many people around the globe, all continents, all countries, all genders.
If you are affected, it is difficult to predict the outcome. Some people will experience a very mild condition with few symptoms. Many will be affected to some degree but others looking at them might not notice. People develop coping mechanisms to hide how they feel, their insides feeling different to their outside appearance. A small but significant number of people will be severely affected. The condition will impact their health and their longer term life chances.
We can see pre-existing conditions that make it more likely that you will experience more severe effects.
Currently there is no cure though there are treatments, things we can do that will make the symptoms less severe.
I am not a medic so no, I’m not going to attempt to treat any COVID infections but I do know lots about Imposter Syndrome feelings!
Unlike COVID, Imposter Syndrome isn’t a diagnosable medical condition and it doesn’t have one specific cause. People affected do show a range of different signs: some feel insecure, not good enough, convinced others have an over-inflated opinion of their abilities and are anxious about being found to be a fraud.
Some experts suggest that the way to cope with Imposter feelings is to talk about them more openly.
It is true that hiding the way you feel, like a shameful little secret, will almost certainly make you feel worse but no, disclosure on it’s own will not guarantee you freedom unless you are towards the “mild-end” of the affected spectrum.
Other people say the solution to Imposter feelings is to be more confident. The thing is, people with Imposter feelings may be very confident. They are often experts in their field, they know their stuff and they are confident in that knowledge – but that doesn’t make them feel any better.
So what is needed to relieve these symptoms?
Certainly, people who are severely affected by Imposter feelings do have unhelpful ways of thinking that cause them to experience difficulties. They compare themselves to others, or even worse, to a perfect version of themselves. They judge themselves harshly and may have very active inner critics, being harder and more judgemental of themselves than any colleague.
Because the conditions that created the Imposter feelings might be unique to each of us, the solutions are often also very personal. Understanding the sources often helps us to contextualise and to reframe the situations, to look at things from a different perspective – maybe I’m not an imposter, I might be a pioneer!
We can learn more helpful ways of thinking and create new ways of behaving – we can even learn how to be more confident if needed. Slowly and deliberately stretching our comfort zones – that’s one way to find your freedom.
I am launching the next cohort of my group coaching programme: “Imposter Syndrome Sources and Solutions” in October so you might want to join us as to get support as you make the changes you know you want to make.
There’s recorded video content, a workbook and group coaching sessions to support your personal change as you implement your solutions. You can even opt for one to one coaching support to really create effective change in the way you feel and behave.
Lu who participated on an earlier programme said:
“I was concerned about sharing my stories and feelings at the start of the course, but this was actually one of the best bits, as I was able to talk to like minded people and we were able to support each other. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone who wants to further their confidence both professionally and personally, it has increased my confidence in myself and given me some great skills and solutions to my imposter feelings.”
The details of the programme can be found here, bookings will be opening soon.
Even if you’ve had these feelings for years, you can begin to change now!
If you’d like to know more, do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.