One of the reasons I love writing for Leaders in Heels is its sense of community. It is an online forum with articles, blogs and tips written by women, for women. I have been a regular contributor for a few months now, but have already found myself learning a lot and being inspired by the women on here, and the advice and knowledge they so willingly share. Many of these women are senior managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, with seemingly much more experience and/or knowledge than I have…
And here comes the self-doubt. Thoughts of ‘I don’t belong here, I’m not qualified to do this job, my opinion doesn’t matter/isn’t valued/is probably irrelevant….’. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone, and I’m happy to put my hand up and admit to that nagging voice of self-doubt that tells me that sometimes I’m not quite good enough.
‘Imposter syndrome’ might be an unfamiliar term to you, but it’s actually been talked about in psychologist circles for a while now (psychologist circles which I am perfectly qualified and experienced to be part of, but still sometimes feel like a fraud…). Recently it’s been used to described someone who has experienced career success, and has substantial evidence to support the fact they are a capable and successful professional, but yet continues to feel like they are undeserving of the rewards (such as their salary or senior management title) and underqualified or inexperienced for the job they are in.
Unsurprisingly, this term has been largely directed at women. I say unsurprisingly because generally speaking men and women project different self-images when it comes to their careers, but I think I’ll save that topic for another post! Interestingly, most studies show that imposter syndrome occurs fairly equally across the board, with results generally revealing only slightly higher prevalence in women than men.
The main purpose of this article is really to get you thinking about this concept, and whether or not it applies to you. If you are reading this and nodding, and making lots of mmhmm-ing sounds then you might be suffering from imposter syndrome too! But there are 3 things you can do today, this month and this year that should nip some of those little negative thoughts in the bud:
Challenge and re-frame those negative thoughts, not just today but everyday.
Everyone has negative thoughts that creep in without warning, and believe me they still do their damage even if we aren’t really aware of them. So become aware of them, and don’t let your subconscious get away with it! There are two things I always suggest clients ask themselves when they experience a negative thought; firstly ‘what evidence do I have that this is true?’ and secondly ‘would I say something like this to my best friend?’ More often than not, you’ll find the answers to these questions are ‘absolutely none’ and ‘no way never’ respectively. Try to be a little kinder to yourself.
Challenge and re-frame those negative thoughts, not just today but everyday
I chose the title ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ because I think that’s a pretty common strategy that we all employ from time to time in our careers when we feel a little out of our depth, and to be honest I think it’s quite a good one. When we see that we can actually achieve something we didn’t think we could, it acts as an instant shot in the arm to our self-esteem and self-belief. This one’s scary because the confidence comes after we take that leap of faith, not before. Try it next time something comes up that you would normally avoid, such as a public speaking engagement or when your manager asks for volunteers on a tough new project.
Get involved in mentoring. Becoming a mentor to a young woman in the early stages of her career has numerous benefits. In addition to being a responsible member of your industry and giving back to your profession, you are helping to shape the career of someone new to the field. And nothing will remind you how far you have come in your career than spending time with someone who is just like you were many years ago!
Try these for yourself, and maybe you’ll find you haven’t been faking it after all!
Laura Lee is a fully registered Psychologist and capable HR professional with over 10 years experience in both a clinical setting as well as within the field of Human Resource Management. Laura is currently the Head Psychologist at HR Gurus, a consultancy firm based in Melbourne, Australia, that specialises in providing straightforward HR solutions to SME’s.
Top Image: RayMorris1