Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome by Ambrose Blowfield
Many people in recent years have written about their personal experience with the Imposter Syndrome. Regardless of your own self-awareness or experience, it is important to realise that it is more common than most people believe. With the long overdue rise in discussions on both mental health and mental resilience, this syndrome has finally been brought out into the open.
Sometimes referred to as ‘your inner critic’, the Imposter Syndrome has a far-reaching impact on someone’s self-confidence, their ability to instill confidence in others and ultimately their long-term career success.
Put simply, Imposter Syndrome is that inner voice that can gnaw away at you before you tackle any project, large or small. It’s that inner dialogue where you tell yourself things like:
- “I’m not ready for this project”
- “I’m not worthy of success”
- “I’m not a leader”
- “I’m not a typical salesperson”
- “I’m not a numbers person”
- “I don’t belong here”
- “I’m not experienced enough for this”
- “I’ll probably fail at this anyway”
Regardless of whether you say those exact words or not, I’d imagine that there’s a 95% chance that you’ve said something similar to those expressions in the past few months alone.
Before we go into the causes of these limiting beliefs, it is important to realise the positive and negative impact of the Imposter Syndrome:
- On the positive side, your inner critic/voice is designed to protect you. It doesn’t want you to fail or get embarrassed so it knows that if it can stop you taking risks by trying new things, it can avoid you feeling hurt, or embarrassed or feeling like a failure.
- On the negative side, however, that inner voice can: stop you taking manageable risks that could be career-making, stop you tackling a large project or client that could provide the breakthrough you want to achieve, or even stop you taking a leadership role that will stretch you positively. Remember, as we cover with James Cameron in year 2 of the Sales Mastery Programme: we grow most at the EDGE OF OUR COMFORT ZONES!
The causes of your limiting beliefs, that give rise to the Imposter Syndrome’, vary from person to person, however in essence they are your past, such as:
- Your past childhood, such as influences from parents, fellow students and teachers
- Your past work experiences with colleagues, managers and clients
- Your past personal life with flat mates, your partner and teams you’re part of
A further source is YOU! Without sounding harsh or non-empathetic, the imposter syndrome often comes from you. Recognising that fact is a great start to better work with it moving forward. One simple technique to use for example is that whenever you hear that inner voice say something like “you’ll probably fail at this”, you can teach yourself to respond with: “think about 3 times when you’ve tried something hard and you’ve achieved”. This alone quietens your inner critic.
Another technique is to use the help of those around you. If you let them know that in certain situations you suffer from imposter syndrome, you can ask them to support you whenever you’re faced with those situations. The more open and vulnerable you are, the greater the support they can give you.
I would love to also address the concept of ‘humility’ in this discussion as so many of our clients pride themselves on that life, and business, value. If humility is applied to one’s life and team with too much zeal, there is a good chance that negative limiting beliefs may follow. Likewise, the common fear of ‘the tall poppy syndrome’, something which I’ll address in an article some day as I believe it massively impacts the confidence and success of New Zealand (and others) as a nation, can also play a part in forming the limiting beliefs that give rise to the Imposter Syndrome.
So, what else can one do to overcome or reduce the Imposter Syndrome?
Most of the behaviours related to the syndrome are also confidence-related. Hence, anything you can do to build your confidence, such as practicing more, getting professional coaching, getting formal or informal training, will likely have an immediate impact in your mindset and your actions. Likewise, getting trained in the area of mindset development is a great step that you can take.
We are ALL (well, likely 95%+ of us) are affected in some way by the Imposter Syndrome. Please remember that that number includes your colleagues, friends and family. So be sure to reach out to them to discuss this topic. By showing such leadership you’ll likely develop your own self-awareness and understanding, as well as building a strong support network around you.
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