3 tips for tackling imposter syndrome
Feeling you’re an impostor can be quite terrifying. The Latin root is impostorem, "impose upon or deceive." This makes me think of the magpie who lays her eggs in another bird’s nest for that female to raise.
Although your logical mind knows you’re competent, you believe you’re a fraud, sooner or later to be uncovered and thrown out of your professional nest!
Outwardly you appear successful and calm. You’ve done well in your career and have climbed the ladder to reach a position where you could now feel proud of what you’ve achieved.
And yet because you believe you’re not good enough, you feel tense, anxious and out of place. You create your own personal glass ceiling.
Each time the self-critical damaging and wrong thoughts start, say your affirmation out loud, like you mean it and believe it.
Successful business women tend to suffer from impostor syndrome more than businessmen. Why is this?
The feeling of not being good enough may stem from what you heard as a little girl, what history tells us about a woman’s place, or what you see around you as a grown woman today.
Two facts to support this ambient expectation, one personal and one from a recent government press release.
When I started out on my former sales career, I remember a well-meaning friend’s husband saying that it didn’t matter if I didn’t succeed as I would never have to be the breadwinner! This kind of remark which expects you not to succeed can set the stage for imposter syndrome.
In 2021, four out of 10 of the 350 top UK companies still have less than one-third of women on their boards.
When you reach higher professional positions, you often have fewer female role models to draw strength upon, fewer female colleagues, and so the feeling of being an impostor can thrive more freely. You say to yourself “I shouldn’t be here” and if you’re not careful, you believe it.
How does imposter syndrome show itself?
It shows itself in the constant worry of not being good enough. You worry about what other people will think or say about you. You worry that what you’ve done isn’t good enough. You worry that what you’ll do in the future won’t be good enough.
And so you work harder and harder to be perfect. Any criticism hits you hard and leaves you reeling and ruminating and feeds your own negative internal dialogue.
When you feel a fraud, you internalise any failures or mistakes and take full personal responsibility for them. Even for those that were not your responsibility. The feeling of being a failure sticks to you. Not only are your actions not up to standard, but you as a person also are not good enough.
On the other hand, when you cultivate self-belief, you tend to externalise any failures or mistakes more. You take your part of responsibility but also give part of it to the person, team, or department who is equally responsible, then move on. Failure doesn’t stick to you. You judge what you’ve done but not who you are. A subtle yet important distinction.
When you suffer from impostor syndrome, you don’t give yourself praise for your achievements or accept compliments. You belittle any success, believing anyone could have done just as well if not better. You were just in the right place at the right time.
Can you see the pattern? Anything positive you do is brushed off as insignificant, anything negative is deeply rooted as a strong belief to justify that you are not in the right place.
The negative self-critical continuous monologue you indulge in can lead to you procrastinating, putting off projects, presentations, or career advancement opportunities for fear of failure. Working with these negative thoughts in the background is like having your worst enemy permanently by your side tripping you up every step of the way.
The impostor is not you, but the thoughts you’re choosing to allow in your mind.
Three tips to soothe self-doubt
Let's take a look at some keep steps you can practise when you feel you’re not good enough.
I can’t say this enough. Breathing offers you a physical anchor that brings you into the present moment and away from the land of worry. When you take a few long conscious breaths the immediacy of overwhelming negative thoughts can withdraw.
Relax the muscles of your face while taking those long breaths, unclench your jaw, smooth your brow, relax your eyes.
2. Talk to yourself!
Create a strong, life-affirming, positive affirmation that will override the negative noise in your mind. Each time the self-critical damaging and wrong thoughts start, say your affirmation out loud, like you mean it and believe it. One such phrase could simply be: I deserve to be where I am and have the right to express myself. Repeat and repeat. When you do this, you’re consciously deciding to give less space to the negative.
3. Learn to say thank you!
When someone says that you have done something well, say thank you and mean it. Don’t excuse or belittle yourself!
What hypnotherapy can do to help
When you have sessions with a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, you learn coping skills that fit your particular experience and personality.
Hypnosis lets you use your imagination to recognise and process thoughts, feelings, and actions in a different way, leading to greater self-confidence and belief. You experience the freedom and space that challenging negative self-talk gives. You can override the thoughts with more helpful ones and act in the knowledge that you belong!
Oh and for the record, when I started writing this article, a twinge of imposter syndrome swept over me, giving me all the more reason to see it published!