Is imposter syndrome holding you back?

What do Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have in common besides a little gold statue? Turns out imposter syndrome is more common than you think…

Rachel  Service

Rachel Service

Rachel Service is the Founder of Happiness Concierge: a training company that helps people ace their work and lives

Natalie Portman, Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. What do they all have in common besides the Oscars? Each admits to being a victim of impostor syndrome: the fear of being 'found out'.

But what is imposter syndrome and how can you overcome that niggling voice in the back of your head telling you you're not up to scratch? It's far easier than you might think.

'Hands up who feels like an imposter?'

At almost every workshop we run at Happiness Concierge, there's a room full of hands in the air in response to this question. A room full of people afraid of 'being found out' at work. People who feel like they need 'just a few more years', 'more experience', or 'more education' before they give themselves permission to make steps towards the career and life they really want.

So, why do we all have our hands up?

Impostor syndrome is a phenomenon where, despite all evidence to the contrary, we're convinced we're about to be exposed as a fraud and do not deserve the success we have achieved. We dismiss any proof of success as luck, timing, or a result of tricking others into thinking we're better than we really are.

If you're consistently minimising your achievements, skills and using words like 'only', 'just' or 'unqualified', then imposter syndrome is definitely holding you back.

The antidote is confidence - a mix of evidence, validation and self-belief. When those three elements are present in your work, you'll go from fearful to successful in no time.

Here are some tips to stop imposter syndrome dead in its tracks.

1. Evidence: build your case

Your learnings, highs, lows, insights, and perspective give you a unique offering and point of view. Packaging up that cumulative experience is what we teach at our workshops. Many people find it confronting because it's often the first time they've been told they're 'experienced enough'.

Spend some time thinking about what you did in 2017 and what you've already done in 2018. Heck, do it for your whole career if you want! Write down how each thing made you feel and what you learned. You may surprise yourself to see how much you've achieved and learned along the way.

2. Articulate your skills and experience

When we ask our students to articulate their skills and experience, many of them say they worry about being seen as 'bragging' or 'salesy', or being told they're 'not good enough'.

We have the power to shift that perception. It starts by outlining the experience we have and the skills we bring to the table. Think about your 'qualifiers': how do you define what makes you qualified? These can be years spent in the field, mentoring your team at work or the combination of all of your jobs across different industries. Add the qualifications you have accumulated to what you've learned and achieved from the step above.

3. Seek validation from those you respect

The more we seek validation from people we respect and look up to, the greater chance we have of overcoming impostor syndrome.

Consider who in your network is creating work you admire and respect. Can you reach out and ask for feedback on your work, or for a piece of advice? People can be very helpful when you pose a question in a way that demonstrates respect and a willingness to learn.

Try saying all of the above out loud to someone who wants to see you succeed and ask them what makes you unique. This will be hugely validating, I swear!

Make your #onechange

Check your emails for weak language like "just" and "I feel". Using these words minimses your credibility and feeds your imposter syndrome. Quit it!

4. Check how you're talking to yourself

Self-belief consists of three elements: I Want (I am clear on what I want in my career, or what I enjoy doing), I Can (I have faith in my abilities to do a good job, I have the validation and evidence as outlined earlier) and I Deserve (I deserve the good things that come when I believe in myself).

The only way you are going to kick that imposter syndrome to the curb is if you can say 'I am good enough' and 'I deserve this' and actually believe it.

There will never be a time you wake up and say 'I am ready. I'm qualified enough. I'm the best in my field'. As comedian Amy Poehler says: "You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, "I made it!"

Don't wait for someone else to give you permission to feel like a rockstar. Get out there and make magic happen. You have us on your team. Imagine if you were on your team, too.

Are you with us?

Rachel  Service

Rachel Service is the Founder of Happiness Concierge: a training company that helps people ace their work and lives. After suffering anxiety, depression and burnout in her 20s, Rachel realised her career was killing her and created Happiness Concierge to help other people have more impact at work.

The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.