Einstein, Sheryl Sandberg and Renee Zellweger are just a few of the famous names who have shared their experiences of suffering with imposter syndrome throughout their careers.
Coined by the psychologists Imes and Clance, imposter syndrome is "a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud." (Dalla-Camina, 2018). An experience rather than an official clinical disorder, imposter syndrome is regularly accompanied by feelings of anxiety and can really hold us back at work. Reportedly, 70% of us will have this experience at some point in our careers and we’re more likely to experience it if we can’t see examples of people in senior roles in our company who share our gender, race or background (as is the case for many women of colour, for example).
Imposter syndrome can be the result of a combination of factors, including past experiences, societal influences, and personal traits - but there are also practical steps we can take to pro-actively build up our confidence. Here are some of my favourite tips to do just that.
1. Get your self-talk ‘trending’ positively rather than negatively – negative thinking habits are self-perpetuating so to change them, you need to consciously and deliberately interrupt your negative thought with a more positive interpretation of the event/incident. This is what CBT does and you can do it at home by downloading the CBT App Thought Diary which will guide you through how to challenge your negative thought.
2. Extend your comfort zone by 10% every month – the fastest way to build confidence is to prove to yourself that you can do things that you thought you couldn’t, so find a way to do something 10% scarier each month e.g. leading a big meeting / challenging a difficult client / asking for a pay rise
3. Develop a growth mindset – avoid perfectionism which slows you down and instead view all your mistakes as useful feedback rather than failure. In fact celebrate getting it wrong, as this is just part of personal growth. Here’s a helpful video on growth mindset.
4. Use your body to trick your mind into feeling confident – “power pose” for 2 minutes to raise your testosterone levels by 20% ahead of big meetings and presentations. Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk for more on this.
5. Practice projecting confidence by mimicking Oprah Winfrey’s style of communication – speak 20% slower in important meetings, use the downward inflection rather than ‘uptalk’ and don’t over-apologise. Watch Oprah demonstrating this beautifully in this speech she gives at the Golden Globes.
This article was written by Carrie Swift, Fearless Coach.