Have you ever felt like a fraud? Like you’ve just been ‘lucky’ in your career so far? Newsflash: it’s not just you.
I spent most of my career feeling like someone was going to tap me on the shoulder and escort me from the building. “Sorry Alice, we found you out. You’ve just been pretending to be good at your job. You really had us fooled there,” they would say. Only they never did. And then I got over it.
Ridiculous, right? In light of decades of achievements, promotions and goals achieved. Years later, I learned that many high achievers experience similar feelings.
Seventy per cent of the population secretly believe they’re not as good as they’re perceived. It’s called the Impostor Syndrome and it’s very, very real. Famous sufferers include Jodie Foster, Tina Fey and even Sheryl Sandberg.
Women in particular are vulnerable to fraudulent feelings like these:
- You think other people are more 'adult' than you and have it together while you're just a fake
- You worry that people will find out that you're not as smart, competent, capable and talented as they think you are
- You dismiss your people's positive feedback or find it difficult to take credit for your successes
- You find it easier to own your failures than your accomplishments
- You find it difficult to hear constructive criticism
If any of these apply to you, you may have come down with the syndrome. Research indicates it’s far more prevalent in women than men, particularly women in male-dominated work environments.
Contributing factors include your family upbringing, low self-confidence and cultural influencers – especially if you're in a profession where you’re in the minority.
Here's the good news
Contrary to how they feel, sufferers are actually likely to be very good at what we do. These symptoms are often a product of having a strong work ethic, high standards and perfectionism. Not that we should strive for this. In fact, we need to be cutting ourselves like some serious slack.
Here’s how I overcame the Impostor Syndrome
- I started owning and acknowledging the positive reinforcements and feedback I got from people
- I actually talked about my successes and wins, taking my cue from men. It seems to come naturally to them
- I worked on my self-confidence by reviewing and showcasing my skills, achievements, accomplishments, capabilities and talents
- I asked trusted people around me what they most admired/liked about me, wrote it down and read it regularly
- I reinforced daily that I was genuine and worthy of success and praise.
Beware, the more successful you become, the louder those voices of self-doubt can get. Acknowledge these voices, but let them know they are not in charge. Tell them to take a backseat and step away from the mic. The gifted, talented and wonderful YOU is in the driver’s seat now. You CAN own your success and your talent. You can overcome feeling like an impostor. You ARE worthy. Own it. Sing it. Embrace it. I’m with you.