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There’s a thought-process I’ve discussed with a few people and every time I mention it, the women in my life seem to respond with ‘I can SO relate to this’, ‘Woah I totally get what you mean’ or ‘I feel like this all the time’. Let me explain it to you…

Sometimes I feel like a great big, fat fraud. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing half the time, that I’m winging everything and that I’m considerably less-qualified/knowledgable/experienced than I should be to do what I’m doing. More often than not, this feeling comes up when I’ve just won a new client, been contacted about a new project or been praised for something I’ve created. Yes, as you may note, all situations where the usual response would be one of joy, celebration and confidence. Now logically, I know this isn’t true. Without blowing my own trumpet (I have to say that, self-depreciation is the sister of impostor syndrome BTW), I clearly am good at my job to be doing what I’m doing and to win the business that makes me feel like I don’t deserve it. In spite of this, the feelings and thoughts persist. To help you join the party, the thought-process goes a little like this…

“God, I can’t believe I’ve won that project over all those bigger/better/more experienced agencies. What are they thinking, I’m so out of my depth I’ll mess this up for sure”

“You think I’m great at my job? LOL. If only you knew that I have no idea what I’m doing. It won’t be long before they realise”

“I’m such a failure, it won’t be long before everyone else finds out too and I lose my clients/job/career forever”

Now while you may be able to relate to this feeling (hopefully, for the sake of this post but hopefully not because of how sadening this is), you may not know that it is a condition, with a name.

Impostor syndrome. Definition:

Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart as everything thinks you are, that you are only imposing as such.

The funniest thing? Impostor syndrome is highest amongst high-achieving women. I also know this to be true, because it is continually my most successful, high-achieving, amazing friends who suffer with this the most. It is the women who I look up to as inspiration, the Taylor Swifts and Karren Brady’s of my world, who all appear to have the biggest lack of confidence in their own ability. SO soul-crushing, yet so understandable.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s something we have to work on. It’s something we have to dig deep to improve if these types of women are to continue having the success, contribution and confidence that have made them as successful as they are. If we are to be like the Bros who walk in going ‘I DESERVE this pay-rise, I’m the BEST’ – even when they totally aren’t.

So in the name of sisterhood, here are 7 of my most tried and tested tips for getting rid of the impostor and finding the real. (The real being the fantastic, successful, amazing you that everyone else sees, by the way).

Stumping out the inner critic

Cognitive behaviour theory (CBT) is something that’s been used for years to quell everything from anxiety to destructive behaviour and is definitely a good little go-to-girl when it comes to sorting out your inner critic. In it’s simplest form, it’s using your own inner voice to contradict the impostor gremlins, each and every time they come to strike. If you have trouble working this one out, the easiest way to think of it is to imagine you’re with a friend when it strikes.

You: “I’m so scared about this new job, I feel so under-qualified and like they’re going to realise they made a mistake once I start”

Imaginary but very helpful friend: “I hear you, it’s natural to be nervous, but they didn’t make a mistake. They hired you because you are the best person for the job. They owe you nothing, so why would they have hired you if they didn’t think you could do it? They have faith in you and you’re undermining how good they are at their job, by thinking they’ve made a mistake. They want you to prove them right. And you will.”

Easy, no? The more you reinforce the positive and the drown out the negative, the easier this gets.

Keeping a good thoughts diary

This sounds wooly, but it really does help. One other aspect of Impostor Syndrome, is ignoring all of the praise/results/achievements that suggest you are capable and good at what you do, and focusing on all of the bad. For example, one mistake you made where you annoyed your boss, could cancel out ten projects where you made your boss extremely happy. There’s no maths or science about it, you crazy girl, it’s just something we do.

So something that helps even out the balance is to keep a little log of all of the good things that prove contrary to the negative thoughts. For me, this is a photo folder on my iPhone, where I screenshot lovely emails from clients thanking me, parting messages from old bosses, comments on blogposts that others could relate to and just general quotes that lift me up. Super simple, free and completely affective to boost you up on those days where you just can’t see what others can.

Surround yourself with the right people

At this ugly age, let’s be honest, we all know who the right people are who are good for us. As I was once told, there are two type of people in the world: radiators and drains. Radiators are those ones who you leave feeling warm and fuzzy. They give something to you and being with them enhances your life and makes you a better person. Drains are the opposite. These are the ones who take energy from you, consumed with their own lives and problems so that they leave you feeling exhausted and low on energy every time they leave you. Particularly in those who experience impostor syndrome and feelings of self-doubt, you need to surround yourself with the former. When you have your own feelings of doubt, you need to be around those who lift you up, not those who add to the negativity in order to make themselves feel better.

Understanding your thoughts

I read a lot and one of my favourite authors at the moment who really helps you dig into the feelings that lead to feeling quite negative about yourself is the researcher and author Brené Brown. She talks a lot about feelings of shame, leaning in to feelings that make us uncomfortable and putting our own needs and authenticity above acting or feeling a certain way in order to please others. Not all of it is directly related to impostor syndrome but I defy you not to read The Gifts of Imperfection and come away feeling a little kinder to yourself. To give you an example of why you’ll love her, here’s a gem from her book that’s already in the kind file:

“To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” – Brené Brown

And finally…

In times of darkness remember that a little self-doubt is healthy. It helps us strive to be better, to improve and never become complacent. It shows that we care and that we have humility. The key, is just to ensure it feeds your fire rather than puts it out.

 

Beth Gladstone

Beth is a Writer and Digital Marketer who founded The Full Agenda as a place to talk about the things that kept her and her friends up at night. Currently working as a Marketing consultant to various SMEs she is a big fan of the startup market and loves technology, apps and anything social media related. When not obsessively checking Google Analytics, she can be found reading, writing or relaxing with a glass of Prosecco.

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