Impostor Syndrome

Managing Imposter Syndrome

By Jess Stuart

Imposter Syndrome impacts on our self-confidence and our self-esteem.  It can therefore impact on our business.  Particularly prevalent in women, this leads to us undermining ourselves, doubting our abilities and being unable to acknowledge the success we achieve which can leave us feeling like a fraud.

Do you struggle to sell yourself?  Are your prices too low (and STILL you worry if people will pay that for your product/service?), do you feel uncomfortable asking clients for feedback or testimonials about your work?

I get, it, I know how it feels and it’s perfectly normal, in fact prevalent in many successful business men and women. What if I told you that 70% of us feel the same and not just women and not just those running their own business?

This is particularly true though if you’re in business for yourself – the boss, the face of the brand and the person who has to make the big calls. There’s no team to hide behind, no-one to help you through these feelings of self-doubt and often no-one to pat you on the back and help you pause and reflect on the evidence that might just prove your inner Imposter wrong.

The International Journal of Behavioural Science states that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which they doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud at some time in their career.

It’s particularly prevalent in high achievers and is often the underlying reason we’re driven to over-achieve. We feel we need to ensure we’re not found out and to prove to ourselves we’re capable!

Those with imposter syndrome have a tendency to attribute their success to external factors—like luck, or the work of the team. It takes courage to take on challenges and pursue dreams that leave you open to the risk of failure, falling short, losing face, and being “found out.”

Whilst education is key, so is having some strategies to navigate these feelings when they arise.  So if we know Imposter Syndrome is impacting us what can we do about it?

Own your successes. You didn’t get lucky, it wasn’t by chance. We tend to be modest when it comes to our achievements, and have been brought up not to boast about our strengths, particularly with the Tall Poppy culture in New Zealand. We feel uncomfortable accepting praise and our negativity bias in our brain means we’re wired not to think of the positives so much.

The most important thing to remember is that if we’re getting praise or positive feedback, it’s because we’ve earned it and deserve it. Own it and let it help counter some of those moments of self-doubt.  If all you can say in the face of this is ‘thank you’ it’s a lot better than anything that’ll downplay it or wave away the acknowledgement.

Give it your all and know it’s enough. Sometimes our imposter syndrome is due to our fear of failure and our perfectionism manifesting all at once to give us this fear of not being good enough. We fail to meet our own unrealistic ideals of perfection—either in the way we look, our abilities in life, or our achievements at work. Perfectionism so often sets us up to fail and feeds these feelings of self-doubt.

Overcoming imposter syndrome requires self-acceptance: you don’t have to attain perfection to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved. It’s not about lowering the bar, it’s about resetting it to a realistic level. You don’t have to be Einstein to be a valuable asset. Nor do you have to attain perfection to share something with the world.

Don’t let your doubt and fear stop you. We need to continue to take risks and challenges even though we might not think we’re ready. Too often, we stand back and let the opportunities pass us by because we doubt our abilities. The best way to see if you’re ready is to dive in and take on the challenge!

There will always be a feeling of fear and the risk of failure—we grow and develop by facing these fears and getting outside of our comfort zone. Don’t let your worries hold you back.

Acknowledge it and know it’s not just you.  We need to be mindful that the voice in our head is often swayed. We are wired to see the glass as half empty, to focus on the negative. This comes from evolutionary times when it was helpful for us to always see the worst that could happen in order to survive. In the days of cavemen and women, it was useful for us to be wary of a saber-toothed tiger around the corner because then we’d be prepared to run.

What this can translate to in our modern world is a constant focus on what we’re not good at, things that went wrong, and why we’re not enough—in our jobs, how we look compared to our friends, who we are as a person, or what we’ve achieved in life.

This negativity bias can leave us feeling like we’ll never be good enough. So to counter the bias, we need to focus on what we have, not what we haven’t, to direct our energy toward the things we’re good at rather than on what might go wrong and where we might fail.

Know that it’s not something we experience alone. Some of the most successful people I know who seem to have mastered life admit that underneath, they feel the opposite some days. Even famous people earning millions and excelling at what they do admit to having moments of self-doubt.

Stop comparing yourself to others.  It’s the fastest way to feel inferior and feed our self-doubt. Unfortunately there will always be someone more beautiful, clever, talented, or stronger than you. But the reverse is also true: at times, you will be the most talented and successful. So instead of comparing yourself to others, look to see if you’re fulfilling your own potential and celebrate the things you have.

One of the ways we can navigate these feelings is by proving we’re capable, this capability brings with it confidence and lessens the power of self-doubt, increasing our comfort zone and our confidence by proving we have the competence and capability.

Employing practical tools when these feeling arise can also help offset the feelings they bring about.  Whether it’s ‘fake it till you make it’ affirmations or mantras we all have our preferences.

I love to keep a success diary/folder.  By writing down the successes throughout the year I got a lift each time I reflected on them, it provided evidence to offset my Imposterism and a place I could go to each time I doubted myself.

What matters most is not whether we fear failing, looking foolish, or not being enough; it’s whether we give those fears the power to keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals.

You can connect with Jess Stuart here: