Recently at a leadership meeting, someone on the team mentioned feeling unsure about their abilities in their role. They were shocked when I replied that I had those same feelings before during my career. So yes, even your colleagues that present as confident in themselves can feel like they might not have what it takes or be the right person for the job – this is known as Imposter Syndrome.
One study found that over 73% of individuals have faced imposter syndrome, and the numbers actually increase as you ask higher-achieving individuals. Hopefully, this news reminds you that you aren’t alone in these feelings, and today we will discuss how to take imposter syndrome on.
It all starts with a vicious cycle: you begin a new task or project, you work through your anxiety and give it your all, complete the project, and then start to wonder, “I bet someone else could do that better” or “anyone else could have done that.” That is the inner saboteur; that self-doubt then breeds the cycle to restart.
Let’s break that cycle using just a few steps:
- Step 1 – Acceptance: Admitting you have these thoughts is how you stop the cycle in its tracks. Knowing that you and many of your peers have felt this way helps ground you in reality and preps you for action.
- Step 2 – Your Imposter Type: There are five different imposter types with their own flavor, but it is essential to know that you may fall into multiple of them.
- The Expert – This is the person that loves to research, reads a lot, overprepare.
- The Perfectionist – High level of anxiety, overly focused on having every detail right no matter what.
- The Natural Genius – Most things come easy to them, so they feel like a fraud when they are slow to pick up a skill or concept.
- The Soloist – More of an individual, don’t like to ask for help, they worry that request will be seen as them not knowing something they should.
- The Superhero – Really pushes themselves, super workaholics, obsessed with their own productivity no matter the cost.
- Step 3 – Separate Feelings from Facts: Inventory the skills you need to be good at your role, then honestly assess yourself against that list to see how you match up. In the end, we want to separate your performance from your self-image if you feel the cycle kicking back in.
- Step 4 – Recognize When You Should Feel Like a Fraud: There will be times where you feel like you don’t belong for whatever reason but remind yourself that it is okay. Not everyone else will be thinking that way. Again, self-alerting is vital here to reduce the anxiety you have going into the situation.
- Step 5 – Accentuate the Positive: Think about all your hard work to accomplish this task. It’s not about luck; it’s about the effort you are putting into it. That is what is making your work product better.
- Step 6 – Do a SWOT Analysis on Yourself Bi-Annually: This will help keep imposter syndrome at bay. Remember that it is okay to have weaknesses or areas for improvement – everyone does. Knowing what you do well and not as well will help you to remember that your strengths aren’t someone else’s.
- Step 7 – Fake It Until You Make It: Everyone experiences this, so give it your best and identify your worst-case scenario. Getting out of your comfort zone is how you will build confidence. Like a baby learning to walk, you don’t give up because you fall on your first try.
For me, it is a comfort to know that I am not alone in these feelings. After following these steps, open up about your imposter syndrome feelings and behaviors. There is an excellent chance a colleague of yours is feeling them too. Then you can pass along what you learned and help them stop their own cycle.