One of the most common issues that I come across with working with really successful people, is that they truly believe the do not deserve that success. Inside they don’t feel worthy or are afraid that they will be caught out at any moment, discovered as a fraud. These beliefs completely undermine their confidence and stop them from pushing forward to even greater success and happiness. What is worse is that if you have these beliefs then others around you will see them in the way you act and behave. You cannot not communicate and when you hold these thoughts inside, people will see it externally, it will come out somehow and more often than not it comes across as a lack of confidence.
When building a business it is so important to be confident, it reassures your clients/customers that you can and more importantly WILL deliver. However, this impostor syndrome is not limited to business, it can happen in any area of life, career, home or social life.
If any of this seems familiar, I can promise you that you are not alone. Some studies have shown that between 50% and 70% of individuals at one time or another have felt this impostor syndrome. It is almost a (and I dislike this word) normal, everyday state of mind. Normal, but definitely less than helpful.
So what is impostor syndrome? Basically it is a set of behaviors and beliefs that we have that lead to doubting our own abilities and past achievements, coupled with a sometimes crippling fear that at any moment they are going to be found out.
Tremendous success does not make anyone immune to impostor syndrome. Lady Gaga, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks are among those who have been said or admitted to having experience of impostor syndrome. Who would have thought that those people, who outwardly appear to have it all together are inside feeling exactly like you or I do when we have those doubts? We all have these thoughts. You are not alone.
Why do we have those feelings though?
Well, one reason is that we live in a world where there is an expectation that everything and everyone must be perfect. Not just perfect, but perfect from day one.
When we look around at social media we see all of the successes. We all see other people succeeding with apparent ease of effort. You know, that person who is always happy and getting what they want every time. They post all of their successes and results on linkedin or social media, bombarding you with how good they are doing. They make it look so easy, but what they don’t post or tell you about, are all of the setbacks and mistakes that they have had or made on the way to their successes. They create a very skewed version of their journey to success and as a result we think it should be this easy for us too.
Everyone has was a learner once, making lots of mistakes, even the successful (but they won’t tell you that).
Three Steps To Banish Impostor Syndrome
Step 1 Cut Out The Negative Self Talk
Understand that everyone was a learner once, even the most successful. With this in mind it is time to start stopping being hypercritical about everything that we do. We need to let ourselves be a learner, allow yourself to make mistakes. Forgive yourself.
The next change that is needed is to cut out the negative self talk (self talk is what we say to ourselves inside our head).
If we forget something or make a mistake, what do we say to ourselves?
“Omg how stupid am I?” Or “You idiot”.
Your unconscious mind hears this and believes it. Over time, as you say these things to yourself (about yourself), your harmless comments become embedded in your beliefs. These beliefs about being stupid or an idiot will then feed further on the future comments and will grow. They will grow and become part of your auto pilot system. You will find yourself doubting yourself, challenging your abilities and eroding confidence.
The good news is, instead of being your own worst enemy, you can be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself, say nice things about yourself. If you make a mistake tell yourself that rather than telling yourself you’re an idiot.
Over the next two or three days. Focus on this internal dialogue and make notes of when you say something negative. Then review the notes. How often did you say something negative about yourself? What words did you use? Now ask, are these the same words that you think about when you have the feelings of impostor syndrome? I suspect they might be.
Now, I have touched upon a way to change this above, in that you need to realise that it is just a mistake that you may have made and the mistake is not you as a person.
So, having done the assessment of what it is you are currently saying to yourself, the next thing to do is to do something different from now on. When you make a mistake and we all do, forgive yourself and ask, what could I do different next time? Write this down each time you make a mistake.
Over the five days you will start to change how you think about mistakes, they are actually opportunities to learn and become even better! Change the blame and criticism into forgiving and learning!
Step 2 Recognise And Celebrate Success
Another area to look at changing is knowing when you have done well.
How do you know if you have done well? Do you need (without this you don’t know) someone to tell you or, do you just know? Or are you a bit of both.
If you are the former or latter, this may be contributing to your impostor syndrome.
Many of us thrive on feedback, some more than others. Sometimes it is not forthcoming and as such we can let our own doubts make the decision on whether we are doing well or not.
To deal with this make sure that you set goals, and goals that are steps toward those goals. It is the smaller mini goals that will, as you tick them off, give you that external reassurance you are doing well!
Step 3 Become Your Own Cheerleader
My final tip in helping to remove impostor syndrome is to become your best friend.
At times when you are feeling those doubts or fears, I want you to do this.
Move somewhere different to where you were when you started thinking those thoughts or feeling those feelings, if you are standing, move somewhere else, if you are sitting move to a different chair.
Now, I want you to imagine you are your best friend or strongest supporter, imagine you are whoever that is, be that person!
Look back at where you physically were a moment ago. Now, tell yourself, looking back where you were sat or previously stood and out loud say what your best friend or strongest supporter would tell you had they heard you say what you were just thinking.
Then just let it sink in and consider what your best friend has just told you. They (you) are your best friend and they wouldn’t lie to you. So this must actually be the truth, rather than what you were thinking earlier.
This technique is VERY powerful and you have to do it as I have described to you. You have to do it as often as you can (I understand that sometimes it is just not possible, especially in public places).
Apply the three steps to your life and your impostor syndrome will fade and become a thing of the past!
If you want to know more or would like to discuss how impostor syndrome affects you along with how I can help, please get in touch.