Imposter Syndrome or Imposter Thinking

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Learn about imposter syndrome – what is it and what can you do about it? Here are the answers with some simple and practical ways to overcome it.

When I am in a room with other coaches, despite having 25 years’ experience as a coach and, over that time, creating great results with my coaching clients, I still look at the other coaches and sometimes think “I am not sure if I am as good as them.”

Back in 1993 I attended the World Congress of JCI in Hong Kong. At the awards ceremony that was held at the end of the week I was nominated for Best President in the World for my leadership of my local group – and I won!

Jacqueline receiving her world award
Receiving my award for being the best president in the world

And yet, when I went back to my day-job working in a bank, I still doubted my skills as a leader. I didn’t believe that I was as good as I actually was, because I had just done what I thought was the right thing. The fact was that “doing the right thing” as a coach and as a leader, was, and is, applying my skills and talents.

I was experiencing imposter syndrome.

So, what is imposter syndrome?

According to Very Well Mind, imposter syndrome is:

An internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be, as if you are a fraud…. the experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area.

Very Well Mind

Do you?

  • Attribute your success to luck, or to others, rather than because of what you have done?
  • Worry that you will be found out as a fraud and not as capable as you appear?
  • Believe your peers are more capable than you?
  • Find it hard to ask others for support
  • Shy away from taking on challenges for fear you won’t succeed?
  • Spend time and energy making sure that what you do is perfect?

If you answer “Yes” to several of these, you could be suffering from imposter syndrome. Or, as Caroline Holt of Attitude Coach, pointed out recently, imposter thinking.

To reframe imposter syndrome to imposter thinking is a healthy process because a “syndrome” suggests that you might be suffering from a psychological disorder of some kind. While “thinking” makes it more of a behaviour that you can change.

Imposter thinking is common for many high achievers and perfectionists who feel like a fraud. It also seems more common amongst women than men.

The impact of feeling like a fraud can include:

  • Constant anxiety
  • Over-preparing
  • Working harder than necessary
  • Not taking on certain projects or not applying for promotion or a new job
  • Not believing in yourself or valuing your worth
  • Not recognising your achievements, successes, and challenges that you have overcome
  • Holding yourself back and not reaching your full potential

What can you do about it?

A wonderful piece of advice that I also learnt from Caroline Holt is “Never judge your own inside by other’s outside”.

Here are a few other things that you can do if you recognise that you have imposter thinking:

  • Remind yourself that imposter thoughts are not the truth. Listen to your thinking and challenge yourself
  • Identify your ingrained (unconscious) beliefs and learn to reframe your thinking
  • Take time to recognise your successes and the challenges that you have overcome
  • Learn to celebrate your achievements
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Talk to others to gain another perspective
  • Find yourself a coach to work with

Ultimately – remember that thinking that you are an imposter means you are successful.

If you want some help with your imposter thinking – talk to me and we can explore how coaching can help. I don’t charge for an exploratory chat!

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