If you secretly lie awake at 3am, worrying that you’re not good enough and that they might ‘find out you’re a fraud’, you are not alone! You’ve got imposter syndrome, along with half the people you work with, according to a recent research study.
Imposter syndrome is the deep belief that you’re not up to a job, despite the outside-world evidence that you are. The 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study found that 52% of women and 49% of men have struggled with imposter syndrome ‘daily’ or ‘regularly’ in the past year – and that it’s one of three core drivers in the gender pay gap.
1. Clear out the myths
Ditch those myths, such as imposter syndrome is inevitable and incurable or that you need it to keep you humble. These keep us stuck, without us realising. Give yourself permission to imagine life without imposter syndrome. The mind won’t let you create a change that it believes is impossible, which is why you need to ditch the myths first. How to spot which myths or bad advice that are holding you back? “I can’t ditch imposter syndrome, because…”
2. Tame your inner critic
Learn to press ‘pause’ on that inner negative self-talk. Research shows that papering over the cracks with positive thinking can make things worse, triggering the backfire effect as your inner critic digs its heels in and tries to defend its position. Try this ’emergency quick fix’ ABC process to press near-instant ‘pause’ on negative self-talk:
Accept that you were thinking an imposter syndrome thought. Don’t try to argue with it – that makes it fight back more loudly.
Breathe in through your nose and out with a sigh three times, then do mindful belly breathing for sixty seconds. This resets the biochemical stress response in your body, calming your thoughts and emotions.
Choose to think about a specific example of something you are doing well, to fire off the biochemical reactions in your body that crank up your confidence.
3. Clear the subconscious fears and limiting beliefs that trigger self-sabotage
As an instant fix, think of something that imposter syndrome is affecting and complete the statement: “I can’t do that, because…” to find your hidden blocks. For each of them, ask yourself: “Is this really true?” If not, do a sighing breath to let it go. If it’s a ‘sticky’ block, get yourself the support you need to clear it. When you clear the triggers, imposter syndrome melts away.
4. Let go of your secret masks
Show up as all of who you really are – authentically and confidently. Done the right way, daily gratitude, for example, can rewire your neurology so that your inner critic becomes your biggest cheerleader. You can start this by celebrating daily ‘micro-wins’: three specific things you did well today. Write them down before you leave the office each day.
5. Stop focusing on the negative things
Instead of focusing on your faults, take action to become the leader you were born to be, to step up with genuine confidence. You can start this by visualising the imposter-syndrome-free version of you, a year from now, and experiencing how that feels; the different thoughts you are thinking and the actions you are taking. This ‘mental rehearsal’ changes the way you feel and act, right here, right now.
Clare Josa is the UK’s leading authority on imposter syndrome and an expert in the neuroscience and psychology of performance. She has spent the past fifteen years working with business leaders on overcoming imposter syndrome, as well as leading the landmark 2019 Imposter Syndrome Research Study and publishing her new book: Ditching Imposter Syndrome, available from Amazon and all good book stores.