Originally published 11/06/2019
In this blog post I explore Imposter Syndrome, what it means and how I, like many others, have suffered from this lack of self-belief
Imposter syndrome, is, as Psychology Today terms it, a ‘psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud’. Stark words indeed. For many women (and it is mainly women) this lack of conviction in their own thoughts and decisions can be crippling and all-encompassing.
Many feel that they will be found out, or work so hard as to approach burn out, so scared that they are under-achieving compared to their colleagues, due to this confidence-sapping syndrome, as described here.
I have certainly at times felt like a fake, giving speeches and advising companies on LGBTQI+ matters where logically I know I am a subject matter expert, but emotionally feeling like a fraud. But this affects many women, even the successful ones, like Alesha Dixon. Alesha has learned to overcome the worse of this condition, stating ‘Even though I was petrified of most things, I would still throw myself into it. And I think that’s where the confidence came from. It’s about learning to silence that niggling little voice in your own head. My confidence didn’t come overnight. It was something that I had to grow into.’
There are ways to combat this, by using some of the confidence boosting techniques I speak about in my videos andblog posts. Better resilience, self-worth and practising tips such as networking all help with feeling less like a fish out of water and more in control as an individual. There’s also a great TED talk on the subject.
Imposter syndrome can be borne out of difficult circumstances, depression or simply a change of environment. My worse bout of imposter syndrome came when I was returning to work after a period of maternity leave some years ago. I had not had the catch up meetings that I should have had, and I felt underprepared and disorganised compared to my usual state. Added to that I was still in the throes of post-natal depression and my team (and the company) had had many changes during my period of leave. This made me feel awkward, emotional (especially with my postnatal hormones) and not part of the team that I had worked in for many years.
I remember speaking to a work colleague who ended up mentoring me, who told me ‘You can do this job with your eyes closed’ – when I heard that, I literally burst into tears. My self-esteem was so low and I doubted myself so much that to hear that someone believed in me was really quite touching. The thought of being good at the job I was employed to do, had many years’ experience in and had never struggled with before, seemed an unsurmountable task.
Gradually, my confidence regained thanks to a number of things – repeating the tasks that I was more than able to do, re-establishing and building my work connections, and simply getting through each day were a great help. But the one thing which really jolted my confidence back to life was embarking on a new project which built my confidence so much, working with new people who told me what a good job I was doing and how I was able to achieve more than I thought.
These days I give myself a fair bit of self-love, repeating mantras and reminding myself of what I have and what I will achieve. I also make sure I tell others when they are doing a great job – this does boost your resilience as I explored in this video. On top of this I have made it a habit to say and enthusiastic Yes! to new opportunities and projects, and throw myself in, learning new skills and building on current ones as I go. Building my network has exposed me to new ideas and cultures, new ways to work and new ways to progress.
But as much as other people have help me tear myself away from Imposter Syndrome, the person that is in control of it is me. As Alesha says, “If you get to the root of Impostor Syndrome it is about self-love and believing in who you are and saying, ‘I belong here, I deserve to be here.’ And this is so true. We do all belong here, we all need to believe in ourselves, and others, and together we can accomplish great things. So push away that nagging self-doubt and start succeeding today.