What is imposter syndrome and how can you deal with it?

Chances are you’ve heard the phrase ‘imposter syndrome’ at some point. Originally identified in a 1978 study, it refers to the idea that high-achieving individuals might consider themselves to be ‘imposters’ in their workplace, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

Particularly felt around times when we should be celebrating, perhaps when you’ve been promoted or are started at a new company, imposter syndrome can quickly turn what should be a career highlight into something more uncertain.

Imposter syndrome can also be part of wider workplace anxiety. Research from RADA Business, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety report, found that 35 per cent of people report feeling anxious at least once a week, with almost 1 in 10 feeling anxious daily at work.

For those needing to overcome imposter syndrome and feel more secure within their role at work, Lisa Åkesson, Tutor at RADA Business, shares a range of insights and techniques.

Recognising imposter syndrome

The first step to combatting imposter syndrome is to recognise when you’re experiencing it. Just as the name suggests, imposter syndrome is a constant feeling that you’re going to be found out. Essentially, you feel like a fraud, even if you are delivering your best work.

Essentially, imposter syndrome is about the mismatch between how we see ourselves, and what we are delivering.

Our inner critic

Whilst our inner critic voice, or self-doubt, can be experienced separately, in many cases it can be symptomatic of imposter syndrome. Our inner critic voice isn’t always a bad thing – it can even be useful. Your inner critic may encourage you to seek advice or ask a colleague for help. It is only if your inner critic starts to undermine your confidence and have an impact at an identity level that it needs to be addressed.

Label the voice

The fact is, we all have self-doubt; it’s unconscious emotional programming that affects our behaviour and choices. However, it is when these beliefs begin to limit you that action needs to be taken. The first step to take is to label your inner critic. When your inner voice holds so much power as to make you feel inadequate, it can be hard to separate yourself from what it is telling you. By identifying it as something other than you, you can act against it.

Investigate It

In the face of imposter syndrome, we can ignore the very real evidence around us, instead succumbing to our inner voice. However, once you’ve identified the voice, it’s now time to assess whether what it’s saying is true.

If you find what your inner voice is telling you isn’t true, then it’s time to lay down the real facts. Try writing down any positive feedback you’ve received from your boss, colleagues, or clients, whether it’s feedback from your appraisal or specific wins from work. When faced with this evidence, it’s harder for your inner critic to win out and convince you to the contrary.

Respond accordingly

Once you have all the evidence laid out in front of you, you can base your response on this informed data. Use all this evidence to find a new label– one that reflects your strengths and capabilities. Moving forward, you can then use this empowered phrase to enhance your confidence and celebrate your full potential.

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