Even the most confident of us have been there. We have all heard that nasty little voice in the back of our mind that whispers “you are a fraud”, “who are you to be doing this?”, “you don’t know what you are doing, do you?”, “what on earth makes you think you can be a successful business owner or a leader, a senior manager, a Director or even a C.E.O?.” That niggling, nasty voice can feel relentless, drag you down, make you feel like you can’t be a success, and stop you from being who and what you want to be. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
That voice is simply what’s known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, it’s not real, and you don’t have to listen to it. Here are 10 great ways to get over imposter syndrome and banish that negative voice to the outer reaches of your mind.
1. You Are Not On Your Own: Sometimes, simply knowing that nearly everyone suffers from imposter syndrome can be enough to derail those negative thoughts and let you push through to the other side. Think everyone else has it all sewn up? Sure you are the only one in the room who feels like they haven’t a clue? Oh no, you are not! But other people have dealt with those feelings, and you can, too. Celebrities look like they have got it made, don’t they? All of those actresses and high-powered women in the media look like they’ve never felt an ounce of fear. But, here are some extremely famous people who also feel like an imposter from time to time:
Kate Winslett: “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.”
Sheryl Sandberg: “I force myself to sit at the table, even when I’m not sure I belong there – and yes, this still happens to me.”
Neil Gaiman: “The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.”
Feeling a bit better now? If people with such high levels of success can feel the same way you do, but still turn up for work and carry on being successful year after year, so can you.
2. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other People: It can be easier said than done, especially if you are just starting out in business and can already see so many successful businesses on social media or you are wanting to further your career and compare yourself to other women in business magazines or on Linked In. But it’s important to remember that what you see on social media and in the media, in general, are the highlights, the good stuff, the successes and the airbrushed professional photographs. You are seeing the finished article, the edited version, the tenth take! You are not seeing the rough cuts or the scenes and stories that didn’t make it because they weren’t interesting enough.
Remember everybody that has already achieved success has had to deal with a lot to get where they are (and they are still probably working very hard to maintain their position.) They have already been through the failures and the knock backs, the late nights and the long hours and the thoughts and doubts that they were not enough when comparing themselves to their own peers. You do YOU, and forget where everyone else is up to, and what they have achieved. You will feel lighter and more able to focus on what you can do.
3. Don’t Compare Your Chapter 1 With Someone Else’s Chapter 20: It’s easy to look at someone else who is far ahead of you in their career and think that you must be at that point right now or you are a failure, but nobody starts off at age 18 with all that knowledge they have gained over years of working. That’s impossible, and you’re setting yourself up for an impossible goal and a hard fail if you think you can do that. Take a look at any successful woman who runs their own business or who is in a senior leadership position, they certainly did not get there overnight and at some stage in their life, they were in the position that you are in now. They have already worked the long hours, had the late nights, the early mornings, the doubts and the fears (and everything else you are experiencing right now) when they started out they were just like you! So Relax. Be happy where you are, and with how far you have come. The only person you need to compete with ever is who you were yesterday.
4. Reframe That Nagging Voice: You might not be able to get rid of ‘Negative Nelly’ for good, but you can change the way you react to it. Every time that little annoying voice pops up and makes you feel like you aren’t good enough, try and imagine the words coming from someone or something you would never listen to or take note of in a million years. Try imagining that voice is coming from Daffy Duck or Big Bird from Sesame Street, or give it a name, like Gertrude or Mavis. Make it less threatening or even plain silly. If you can laugh at it, you can shake it off and move on.
5. Get Some Support: Connect with other people that you genuinely like. Find positive people to be around, and your mood will automatically shift, anyway. If you have a circle of people you can trust, you can comfortably talk about your doubts and share your fears, knowing that you will be supported, not laughed at. Just saying how you feel out loud can take some of the sting out of that internal critic and make you feel better, and good friends are perfect for laughing at the very idea that you’re anything other than completely amazing!
6. List Your Achievements: Get a piece of paper or an open Word file, and write down everything you can think of that you have achieved. Write down your qualifications – even if they aren’t related to what you currently do, you still put the work in and achieved them, and that’s a big deal. How have you helped other people? What are your skills and talents? What successes have you had along the way? Write it all down, and then when you are having a bad day, open up your file and read through it for an instant mood lifter and doubt banisher.
7. Start a ‘Daily Did’ List: Most people have a ‘to do’ list, and while we’re not suggesting you get rid of that, writing down everything you have done each day gives you a real sense of accomplishment. Even on those days where you are feeling like you got nothing done at all, wondering where the time went and what on earth you did, you can look at your 'Daily Did' list and see just how much you packed in there.
8. Take Massive Action: Sitting and worrying never did anyone any good. It won’t solve your problems and it won’t get you any further through that task list. The benefit of massive action, or indeed, any action at all, is that if you are doing, you are not overthinking, and that little voice is nowhere to be found.
9. Accept Your Success: Well, that sounds easier said than done, doesn’t it? What we mean is; YOU ARE HERE! You did it. You got the job, completed the project or gained your new qualification. YOU did that. Nobody else put the work in or sat for hours learning how to get it done. Because if they had, you wouldn’t be the one here, would you? Focus on that, and the doubts should disappear.
10. Focus On Helping Other People: It’s really hard to be thinking about yourself and what you think you can’t do if you’re concentrating on what other people need and how you can best help them. Focus on providing amazing value and doing the best job you know how to do, and watch those doubts evaporate.
A bonus tip, because we can.....
11. Don’t Fear Failure: Everybody fails. Nobody can build anything great if they don’t allow themselves to try and fail along the way. Instead of thinking ‘I’m a failure and a fraud, and everybody is going to think I’m stupid, and oh, my word, how will I ever hold my head up again, and… etc, etc’ - breathe, calm the panic, and look instead at why something didn’t work and what you can learn from it.
Those are the really valuable lessons in life. Remember, you can make a success out of failure; no, everyone will not think you’re an idiot; you are completely enough just as you are; and oh, the things you will learn if you accept that failure is part of life!
Disclaimer: We are very happy for you to reproduce this article for your own personal use, blog, newsletter or website. All we ask is that you do not modify the content and that you add the following message and link to the bottom of the article. This article is reproduced with the permission of Jane Lowe, Founder and Creator of The Great Women's Academy. To find out more please visit www.thegreatwomensacademy.co.uk