How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome can prevent your employees from bringing their best selves to work. As inclusive employers, our aim is to create workplaces where everyone can thrive, where employees don't feel held back. Negative thoughts about our abilities are at the root of imposter syndrome. In this blog Sharon Cooper, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, explains more about this and provides practical advice to understand, challenge and overcome Imposter Syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Sounds a bit scary doesn’t it? “Imposter Syndrome” makes me think of something clinical and that there might be something wrong! A senior manager introduced me to this concept because she recognised the signs of Imposter Syndrome in me. I did a bit of research into it and it absolutely resonated. I couldn’t believe that other people actually felt the same! The best way I can describe it is that little (or sometimes loud) voice inside your head that chips away at your confidence. Imposter Syndrome can:

  • Make you doubt yourself
  • Convince you that you don’t have the experience or knowledge to do your job
  • Make you feel that you’re going to be “found out” at any moment, or that you are not good enough
  • It can hold you back – maybe it stops you from applying for that promotion, from contributing in that meeting or volunteering for that really interesting project.

The term Imposter Syndrome was first used in 1970s by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance and at the time was mainly applied to high-achieving women.  However, it has more recently been recognised that it can affect anyone, no matter their experience, background, skill or expertise.

According to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, more than 70% of people are affected by workplace imposter thoughts at some point in their life. That’s a lot of energy poured into negative thinking. Imagine instead if that energy went into something more productive…

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Call out Imposter Syndrome

What I have found is that you can take that power back. That starts by giving it a name: ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Learning techniques to challenge that negative voice in our heads allows us to push and stretch ourselves past that point we think we initially can’t reach.

Reframe negative thinking

I can recall a great example of how reframing my thoughts helped challenge Imposter Syndrome. I was a newly promoted manager and felt that I wasn’t coping very well. I was chatting with another female manager and remember saying that I felt I was “winging it”. She very clearly told me, “no you are not winging it, you are thinking on your feet – that’s a valuable skill”.  It stopped me in my tracks.

Have confidence in your strengths

A great way to a great to focus on your strengths is by carrying out a strengths questionnaire. Complete the questionnaire and focus on your top strengths, think about how you use these? Share the quiz with colleagues and have conversations about each others strengths – it’s energising!

Awareness can help overcome Imposter Syndrome

There is no quick fix to reset negative thinking. With awareness and support you can start the process. I attended a series of Imposter Syndrome workshops, where a group of women wanted to keep the conversations going. We set up a network group called “energy angels” to do this. This group challenged, developed, supported and stretched each other. It made us all more confident. Many went on to apply for roles they wouldn’t have considered before and some were successful! 

Its important to say that recognising and challenging your Imposter Syndrome isn’t just about applying for different roles, its about being the best and most fabulous you and who doesn’t want that?

Learn more about our training for Imposter Syndrome or get in touch directly with your account manager to find out more about how we can support you.