Is there an imposter living in your head?
Updated: Apr 14
I met with someone recently who told me they had an imposter living in their head.
Ring any bells?
It did for me.
I don’t remember now when I first heard the term ‘imposter syndrome’ but I recognised it immediately. I used to think it was just me who felt that way.
As a Finance Director, I often worried that I would get ‘found out’…. that any minute now my boss, or fellow Directors, would realise that a mistake had been made when I was hired. I often thought that it was just pure luck that I was in that role. I can vividly remember times when I was at my desk waiting for them to call me into a meeting to tell me that the game was up. It was irrational; in my head; but that didn’t make it any less real.
One occasion really stands out.
Our bank offered to help review how we were managing our foreign exchange. I was confident that we were managing it optimally. However, I felt anxious about having this put under a microscope. I was open to recommendations that would help us improve – that wasn’t the issue. But, I was worried that maybe I had made some shameful error that would be uncovered. I put together an overview of what we were doing and as I handed over the files to our relationship manager, I said something along the lines of ‘you’ll probably think I am crap at my job when your team reviews this’. The relationship manager contacted me a few weeks later to tell me that the Bank’s Foreign Exchange team were unable to come up with any recommendations for improvement.
I’ve been in plenty of situations where I didn’t know what to do and I asked people for help or said, “I don’t know”. On the whole, my self-belief is stronger than my self-doubt. However, that does not mean that I don’t ever experience feelings of doubt or that I don’t belong or that I am just not good enough.
When my ‘imposter’ starts questioning my capabilities, my competence, my worth or my direction I stop. I think about the next smallest step(s) that I can take to help me achieve what I am trying to do. I take a small step, then maybe another and another until my imposter vanishes. Sometimes it can be immediate and sometimes it takes a while.
Maybe you’ve felt never felt like a fraud. Maybe you have once. Maybe you feel that way often. If you have ever felt like this rest assured you are not alone.
Help is at hand
There are loads of resources available that provide tips and techniques to address this phenomenon. Some of my favourites include:
· Amy Cuddy
· This TEDx talk https://youtu.be/zNBmHXS3A6I
· HBR articles. These are two of my favourites:
When your imposter speaks to you
Stop. Listen. Listen to understand or learn but not to obey. Then set out some small steps that you can take. Start taking those steps and you might be surprised at how quickly it disappears. It is your imposter; your voice. You can stand up to it and conquer it.