Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Well that’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it. It couldn’t possibly impact me could it? Yet in my 12 years of coaching I have come across the impostor syndrome so often. What does it look like?
So many people feel they have been lucky to achieve the level they have within their organisation and have a deep-seated fear that sooner or later they will be found out for the fraud that they believe themselves to be. From a coach’s perspective, this is not reality, but within the coachees unconscious mind. This is their reality and is always in the back of their mind.
This mindset of not really believing in themselves is like an anchor holding them back and causes a lot of internal stress at the same time. So, what do I do when I see signs of Impostor Syndrome? I hear the phrase “I was lucky to get this job”. I ask them how lucky and get to explain to me how many hours they have spent educating themselves and all the different steps they have taken to get where they are today. I have also noticed many of these same people don’t accept compliments and therefore, in my terms, don’t top up their confidence fuel tank. By just starting to thank people when they are given compliments is a good starting place too. In my experience, I have also found that this seems to impact women more than men.
Coincidently whilst writing this article I have read a piece from a CEO Helen Morrisey who has written a book called “A Good Time to be a Girl”. Helen says she is just an ordinary girl from an ordinary background …All I have really done is stretch myself” Morrisey rows against the cultural tide by arguing that men and women do on average have different inherent strengths. She believes that men are more noisy, competitive and risk taking, while women are more diligent, doubtful and empathetic.
It is not just about men and women however, particular profiles are more prone to the imposter syndrome.
Perfectionist – Do you feel your work has to be 100%, 100% of the time (never been a problem for me!)
Superwoman/Superman – Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title, so you work harder and harder to prove your worth (I might have fitted this category in my corporate life?)
Natural Genius – a track record of straight As and gold stars (one would have been nice!!)
Rugged Individualists – I don’t need anybody’s help (I often do, in fact I am known as a master delegator)
The Expert – Even if you have been in your role for some time – you still don’t feel as if you know enough (I have known a lot of experts in the insurance industry)
No matter what your profile is, if you struggle with confidence, you are not on your own. 70% of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career. Coaching can be ideal for ironing out confidence issues and Imposter Syndrome. How many people go to their boss and say they lack confidence? Not many, but in a confidential environment, with a coach, they can attack the issue through a common-sense approach. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any support at any time.