Have you ever started a new job but then began to doubt your capabilities just as you started to pick things up? Or received a promotion, only to think that other colleagues may have been more deserving? If so, you’ve likely experienced imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome comes in all different shapes and sizes, from feeling like a fraud to fearing you can’t live up to the expectations of others.
First and foremost, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do as a coach.
I’m a Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Rapid Transformational Therapist. I help people overcome their personal barriers to success such as lack of confidence, low self-worth, imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. I work with the subconscious mind, to discover the root cause of these issues. Your mind can then be re-wired according to what you want to achieve. I also work with the conscious mind through coaching; focusing on accountability, progression and achieving goals. On the other side of my work, I am a consultant and facilitator in the equity, diversity and inclusion space. I’m passionate about breaking down the barriers that prevent people in underrepresented groups thriving.
That sounds so interesting – how did you find this career path?
Early in my career, I worked as a Civil Servant, and one of the first things I experienced was a training course focused on mindset and neuro-linguistic programming. I loved it and started coaching within my day-to-day work and on a voluntary basis.
As I worked my way up the corporate ladder, I found myself ticking a lot of boxes and excelling, but I was hit by imposter syndrome, despite my high performance. So I guess you could say that I’ve been on both sides of the coin – I’ve been a super confident employee, but imposter syndrome made me question myself and whether I truly belonged. Being the only woman of colour in many of the rooms I was in further added to the weight of what I was experiencing.
In 2018, I decided to make coaching a full-time career. Imposter syndrome and self-sabotage were topics that frequently came up with my clients and they deeply resonated with me, so I chose them as my specialist areas. I was always passionate about fostering inclusion so working in this area was a natural progression.
What exactly is imposter syndrome?
Ultimately, imposter syndrome is when you feel like a fraud or have a fear that you’re going to be exposed as one. It can cause feelings of self doubt and inadequacy. People often give their success away to external factors, such as being in the right place at the right time or just being lucky. It can cause adaptive behaviours, such as perfectionism, working to the point of burnout, or procrastination. These behaviours are ultimately to avoid being exposed.
Is it something you only notice within yourself, or can it be spotted in others too?
We’re good at hiding imposter syndrome, which makes it tricky to spot in others. We look at everyone one else and think ‘ah, they’ve got it together!’, but we don’t realise that they’re probably looking back at us thinking the same. Imposter syndrome can cause us to develop a mask to hide the fact that we don’t feel good enough. No one wants to say to their boss “I think I’m rubbish at my job” and so we get good at hiding it. Sometimes the person who appears the most confident is actually struggling internally.
Are the feelings of imposter syndrome ‘normal’?
Absolutely. The roots often start in childhood. For some people, it comes from only being praised when they are perfect, and for others, being praised constantly, which creates uncertainty about what equals success – these are just two examples. As we get older, we’re constantly reminded of the ways in which we’re inadequate through advertising. There’s always something more that we could be, do or have. In addition to this, negative workplace experiences, such as toxic management, microaggressions, lack of inclusion, can create and contribute to imposter feelings. Imposter syndrome is a very natural response when you consider all of this.
What steps can people take to reduce feelings of imposter syndrome?
Change the way you talk to yourself. Imagine your mind is always listening, so if you’re constantly thinking you’re a fraud or that you’re not good enough, you’ll start to believe that and act accordingly. Your thoughts directly influence your feelings and behaviours but with some practice, you can change your thinking. Be kind, compassionate and nurturing and see what a difference it makes. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Also, start tracking your achievements, no matter how big or small they are. We often play down what we have accomplished, and that’s got to stop. Keeping a record can help you focus on facts (how much you’ve achieved) vs feelings (I don’t feel good enough). Realising you’re not alone can be reassuring and make you realise that other people are having the same experiences.
What advice would you give people who feel imposter syndrome?
Remember that you feel the way you do for a reason and that’s highly unlikely to be because you are an imposter. In fact, high achievers are more likely to experience imposter syndrome!
Keep in mind that internal and external factors feed into imposter syndrome. While it has its roots in childhood, it is absolutely triggered and exacerbated by negative experiences later in life. You can do the inner work to transform how you feel about yourself and your achievements. You might also need to consider changing your environment.
Forget worrying about whether or not you’re good enough, the truth is that you are. Accept and embrace that.