Almost all of us will experience imposter syndrome at some time in our lives; whether it’s at school, socializing in large groups, speaking in front of our peers or doing the daily tasks of running a business partnership, it will strike at some point with a voice in our head telling us we don’t deserve to be where we are. How we choose to talk to that voice which is programmed to undermine us and fill us with doubt and fear, can often create the defining moments in our lives.
Be under no illusion, moving on and achieving success is not a sign that someone has not experienced, or indeed is not still experiencing, this challenging state of mind. What it often comes down to is how they choose to talk to it and make the decision to push past it, however uncomfortable that may be.
As a Coach and Mentor, every person I have worked with has experienced the fear that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously, or that the success they have achieved is temporary and bound to fail as soon as people realise they are not as good as everyone thinks they are. People use words like ‘luck’ or ‘being in the right place at the right time’ to explain their successes, rather than being able to acknowledge that they capable or talented.
I like to ask the question ‘how is this imposter serving me?’ and it can be a good way to challenge the voice in your head the next time you hear yourself using this kind of language to avoid taking a chance with a new opportunity at work. I remember the fear I felt when I as offered my promotion from Personal Assistant to International Events Manager; the fear of moving from a position where I was seen as experienced and a person to go to for everything, to being new to a role and taking on a challenge that was, in my head, going to show up all the things I didn’t know and prove I wasn’t up to the task. (I held this position for 11 years).
Fear of looking like you don’t know everything is a good way of staying put and not taking the risk of progressing. And at these times, it is worth remembering that you are far from alone in having these thoughts. The way to move past them, is often about taking a few steps and sticking with them (like most changes) and my top tips to move past your imposter’s influence on your decisions are:
- Mind your language!
Be more aware of the language you are using with yourself on a daily basis. How often do you criticize rather than encourage? How much of what you tell yourself is reinforcing negative beliefs rather than allowing in new, positive ones? The language of self-deprecation and self-blame encourages the imposter within to settle in for the long term. Challenge yourself to use more positive language and you’ll soon notice the impact.
- Tell someone about the challenges you’re facing.
I’ve said it already, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that most people we are working with are experiencing, or have experienced, similar thoughts about their abilities. Sharing what you’re feeling with others is a powerful way to build support to make change. I’m not suggesting you take out an ad, but why not tell a couple of your closer colleagues the next time you feel wobbly about your abilities, and you’ll find solidarity and support are easier to find than you expected. Knowing you have a team of people who have your back and who are there to help you push through the negative self-talk, will enable you to aintain this new, positive behaviour.
- Create a timeline of progress to keep it real.
When did you last look at your CV? See how far you’ve come? This is a great way to keep the Imposter in check. Acknowledge how much you have already moved forward and look at your daily successes to keep building your inner-belief in your credibility. It is easy to forget what we have achieved when we’re always facing long to-do-lists and never-ending emails and messages. Next time you’re thinking ‘I’m not experienced enough to go for that opportunity’ look at the timeline you have already travelled and go for it.
Language plays such a key part in our head-talk and the outcomes that it creates for us. Have a gentle word with the imposter in your head, with positive language to reassure them and let them know it’s okay to feel nervous, it’s alright to a little afraid, but that you’ve got this. Your (mutual) credibility is in safe hands.
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