What does being an imposter mean? It’s when we feel we don’t fit, or that we’re not worthy of something. Clients often tell me: I’m afraid I’m going to get found out.

Imposter syndrome – also known as Imposter Phenomenon or Imposterism – is a psychological issue. It’s a persistent fear that you’ll be discovered as a fraud. You doubt your skills, talents and accomplishments.

When attending events, many people feel that everyone else is really confident and successful. Whereas we feel out of place, as if we don’t belong, not realising that many others in the room feel exactly the same.

Everyone wears a mask that says: I know what I’m doing, I’m confident, I’m showing the world that I’m good in my role. In reality, under their masks, they feel insecure, vulnerable and uncertain.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other’s Façades

Everyone puts on a façade at times, both on social media and in real life. We know what’s behind our own façades, yet still compare ourselves despite having no idea of what’s going on for others.

Observing society to see how others behave, we compare ourselves; do I measure up to that standard? Do I behave the same? If not, that’s my fault because everyone else is clearly brilliant.

It’s the same in the workplace. Someone appointed you because they recognised your talents, capabilities and potential, knowing you were the right person for the job. Yet your imposter syndrome makes you distrust their judgement. The truth is that it’s your anxiety, lack of confidence, or perfectionism that’s telling you this. It’s all in your mind!

Supportive managers deliberately hire people who are better at certain tasks than they are because they don’t want to do those tasks. They don’t need to constantly criticise or tell you what to do, so you’re saving them time and money.

Levels of Confidence

Imposterism is the opposite of confidence – your belief in your ability to do the task. There are different degrees of confidence depending on the situation. For instance, I’m confident about making myself a nice cuppa, but unconfident when making a cuppa for a stranger because I have no idea how they like it. I’ll worry that they’ll think it’s disgusting!

Confidence is dependent on context, which changes according to the circumstances.

  • Confidence is in knowing how you complete a task.
  • Imposterism is your doubt of your skills and talents.

Two conflicting beliefs – complete opposites! Yet they sit together as a natural pair.

When working with clients on imposterism, first we consider their doubts and what they have confidence in. Then, we work on what’s going on for them and where those feelings came from.

Why Do We Feel Like an Imposter?

Nagging doubts about your skills is a belief. You believe you can’t do something, which becomes your mindset.

The strength of your beliefs stem from a combination of feedback from others and from your own experiences – your background and upbringing, and the role models you had in your life. Did those significant people build you up and encourage you, or were they very critical?

We’ve all experienced people who share their opinions, whether we want them or not!

Many of us need validation to help us know how we’re doing, which can be either internal or external. Internal validation is your instincts telling you that you did a good job whatever the feedback. Whereas if you need external validation, you actively seek opinions and feedback from others to confirm you’ve done a good job, even if you know you did.

My client work highlights that people with external validation frameworks tend to doubt their abilities more because they’re comparing themselves against others far more. So, external validation can lead to feelings of not measuring up.

Whereas those with internal validation may not have such strong imposterism, but it’s more difficult to overcome because it’s usually a more deeply rooted belief.

What Are They Scared Of?

Over the years, our experiences have either built up or undermined our confidence. You’ll know who your cheerleaders and supporters were, and those who undermined or hindered you. Those people who sabotaged you either thought they knew better or were driven by their own fears and insecurities – they were threatened by your capabilities and confidence.

Next time you feel undermined, ask yourself what they’re scared of. What’s their ‘fear’ button? Find out more about fears and other unhelpful behaviours here. Often, the individual hindering you may be in a place of authority but is scared you’ll usurp their success, so whether consciously or unconsciously, they’ll try to undermine you.

Working with teams where undermining has occurred, when the individual realised that what they thought was helpful feedback was, in fact, damaging the team dynamic, they were mortified. During our one-to-one conversation to discern what may be going on, they realised that their actions were coming from a place of fear and insecurity. Once that was recognised, we focused on building their confidence so that they never needed to undermine others. Instead, they built both themselves and others around them up, making them all look good!

Creating Your World Map

To overcome your imposters, notice who you’re surrounded by. Observe behaviours, interactions and conversations. Who are boosting builders and encouraging supporters, and who are underminers and saboteurs?

Once you’ve recognised them, create a blueprint of how your world – your work situation – functions to see how you fit within it. What’s your role and expectations? Do your experiences shape what you do?

We constantly seek evidence to either support or challenge our beliefs, so this exercise can help to corroborate your thoughts. The phrase: Fear is false evidence appearing real becomes apparent here. If you discover that you’re getting false feedback, you may fixate on that one criticism rather than all the positive feedback.

This is when my 5 A’s Model for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is needed.

The Magic 5 A’s Model for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If your imposter syndrome is hindering your career progression, then it’s time to work on stopping them with this simple but effective approach:

1. Check out your Affirmations. What are you saying to yourself about your abilities? Are they positive?
2. Check in with your Attitudes. How are you feeling about what you’re doing?
3. Check in with your Actions. What actions support and build up your confidence? What are you doing to reassure yourself that you can do what you need to? Over time, actions become habits.
4. Who are your Allies? Realign yourself with your cheerleaders and confidence boosters.
5. Acknowledge what’s going well to remind yourself that you can believe and trust in your abilities. Acknowledge to reinforce your success.

To help, book a session with me on how to flesh out those Magic 5 A’s. Before long, you’ll be free of those imposterism traits and reaching new career heights. Call me on 07766 004964, click here to email me or visit my online diary here.