Updated: Jan 9, 2021
There’s this woman I know…
Every time I say I want to do something new she tells me it’s too hard.
Every time I say I want to try for a promotion she tells me I’m not smart enough.
Every time I think about my parenting, she tells me I’m a bad Mum.
I try to do a short course but then she tells me I won’t succeed so I may as well just give up.
I put on a red dress and she tells me it’s too bright for you, wear something darker so you don’t stand out.
I’ll tell you something, I’m quite sick of her and she needs to step!
You know who it is right?
Yeah, it’s ME!
Could you imagine a friend saying these things to you? Because I couldn’t. There is no way your circle of trust would be so unsupportive of any idea you have, no matter how ambitious. They support you through it all, they raise you up and then they push you forward.
So, tell me…why can we not do this for ourselves?
Imposter Syndrome (Oxford)
“The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills”
This term was originally called Imposter Phenomenon, but the term Imposter Syndrome is recorded to have been used around 1978 by psychologists who theorised that women were uniquely affected by imposter syndrome. Research now shows that both men and women experience this.
Whilst Imposter Syndrome is not classed as an official disorder it is not something to be brushed off. Like anything that holds us back, we need to try and face it head on.
I have walked away from many situations because of an inability to accept my good parts and an ability to fully accept my bad parts. I’m talking job opportunities as well as personal relationships.
There have been so many times where I was trying to be a perfectionist and set ridiculously high standards for myself. The house had to be my kind of perfect and the food on the menu had to be just right before I held some sort of dinner party or gathering. If it wasn’t, there would be a whole heap of screaming and stress beforehand. In reality no one noticed the bits that went wrong (in my head) and they all had a great time.
I can remember numerous situations where I didn’t speak up through fear of looking stupid. You know what I mean, like when you’re at school and sheepishly put your hand up with a weird look on your face? I still did that, at 35 years old, in a meeting, at work, doing a job in my expert field that I’d done for 5 years. I doubted my ability even when I had been chosen for the job specifically.
One thing I did overcome was my ability to run. I was always a natural runner, like my father. He would still out run me at 50 whilst I was 30 and marathon training. The problem comes when you stop running then start again. You suddenly realise you've lost a bit of progress. You get a block and you feel average. Now that may sound bad, but when you feel in your heart that you are naturally good at something but then one day you are not, it makes you wonder if you were any good in the first place and it was really all just good luck? When I stepped back from the problem, I could see that with any natural ability, you need to work on it for it to improve. Elite sports men and women don’t just wing it on natural ability. They train hard, they learn their craft and continuously improve.
Another part of Imposter Syndrome is the person that always wants to work alone. I have been in this situation so many times, always wanting to complete a task by myself. The weird thing is that if anyone helps, I feel a sense of failure. However, quite often a shared project that gets a view from different aspects, can be even better. So, why do we have this soloist agenda? Success can be enjoyed in a team as well as on our own.
There are so many techniques I have come across that can help bring awareness to, challenge and change these unwanted and unhelpful thoughts. It is more than ok to challenge your first thought. In fact, I find it to be the best way to get clarity on what is and what isn’t.
Our environment past and present plays an important part in tackling Imposter Syndrome. Challenge your thoughts and I mean really be true to yourself about what has led you to this point.
If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work and it’s so important to identify what does and does not work for you.
Be kind to yourself first.