Impostor Syndrome may suddenly have hit the zeitgeist with Michelle Obama becoming another person to admit that they have suffered these feelings, but this is not a new phenomenon, Impostor syndrome, the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications, was first identified in 1978.
Counselling for Impostor Syndrome will explore what makes you feel that you are a fraud and that you are not deserving of your success, admiration and recognition, of your talents and skills by others. Counselling will look at your self-esteem and self-belief and explore where these feelings of being underserving have grown from, and will help you to learn to internalise your own success.
How does Impostor Syndrome manifest itself?
We have all felt unsure of our ability to perform a task or role that has been given to us, not always, but often in a work role … in many ways it is a positive spur to make us ‘dig deep’ and ‘aim higher’, to push or stretch ourselves.
However, when your everyday thoughts linger on feelings that you don’t deserve your success, wealth, good fortune, promotion and when you cannot see why others praise you, as you can’t see the person you think they are seeing, this then suggests you are suffering Impostor Syndrome.
Do you have thoughts such as?
- Did I deserve that promotion? My team will soon see that I don’t have the ability to do the job
- Everyone says I did well, but I know I could have done better … in my mind I failed!
- Yes, I won that argument, the committee went with my recommendation, but I know I didn’t fully understand the case … if they knew I didn’t know 100% they wouldn’t have agreed … I’m a fraud!
- Everyone says I made it look so easy … if only they knew how hard I had to try … I’m not a genius I’m a fake!
- I can’t ask for help … If I do they might realise I don’t really know what I’m talking about … they’ll see I am not really capable.
- My partner is amazing, I really can’t understand why they have chosen me, they’ll soon get bored.
The above are examples of the typical thoughts many people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome will have.
Ways to overcome Impostor Syndrome
- Talk about your thoughts: Break the silence. Worry keeps you from ‘admitting’ your feelings of insecurity. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings, Impostor Syndrome, and that you are not alone can help you believe in yourself. Talk to a therapist about your Impostor Syndrome.
- Separate thoughts from facts: We all make mistakes and feel stupid, it happens to everyone! Accept that just because you felt stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
- Recognise that you are different: When you are the only ‘x’ in the office of course you’ll feel different, that doesn’t make you an imposter but a leader. Enjoy your uniqueness.
- The perfect is the enemy of the good: Perfectionism indicates a drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being perfect. Accept it when you achieve just a ‘good’ result.
- Learn to respond positively to not ‘hitting the target’: Instead of feeling insecure about an error or lack of judgement, learn from the mistake and move on, don’t dwell on it.
- Re-write your rules: Did you learn “you should always know the answer” or “never ask for help” No one knows everything asking for advice or help shows your strength of character and by involving others builds good feeling.
- In a new role? write a new script: Instead of “they’ll find out I have no idea what I’m doing!” think, “a new role is like getting a new phone, it often feels odd and unfamiliar, I may not know all the answers but I’m bright enough to discover them.”
- Positive visualisation: Spend time picturing your successful projects, sessions and outcomes. You’ve won the role on your merits think about your past successes too.
- Validate yourself: Don’t look for others approval, they may not show it and you might take that as a sign you didn’t succeed. When you know you did well, pat your own back!
- Sometimes you just have to ‘Wing-it’: Learn to do what many people that you admire do, occasionally, ‘fly by the seat of your pants’! Sometimes we just have to take a risk, but in doing so we can end up building our own confidence and self-belief.
How counselling helps you cope with your feelings of being an Impostor?
Impostor syndrome is tackled by reviewing your own thoughts and exploring why you see yourself and your achievements in the light that you do. Then to take a reality check on your achievements and abilities. One of the key areas of counselling for Impostor Syndrome is to teach you to pause each time you have a negative thought about your ability and ask yourself “Is that thought true?”
The cause of your feelings of being an impostor sometimes has its roots in your early or formative years, perhaps that your school grades were never good enough or that you just weren’t able to achieve everything that your parents expected of you or you expected of yourself.
Counselling for Impostor Syndrome: Coping with feeling like a fraud
Working with a counsellor in a safe, confidential space you can explore these feelings and find ways to accept and recognise your achievements and the belief that others have in you.
Counsellors who work with self-esteem, self-belief and self-worth can work with your feelings of being a fraud or an impostor.
Helpful advice and useful resources on Impostor Syndrome
Oliver Burkeman: The Guardian
Oliver Burkeman often has a light hearted take on matters emotional. Here he gives his simple but easy to understand take on Impostor Syndrome and how society should try and tackle it.
This simple but nicely animated short TEDed video by Elizabeth Cox helps us understand the discovery of Impostor Syndrome and why we suffer from it.
Amy Cuddy delivers an enjoyable TEDtalk on confidence and using body language to improve our success, she touches on Impostor Syndrome about 16 minutes into the talk.
Wrote an interesting article on why women in work often suffer from impostor syndrome. Why do so many women feel like frauds?
© Brian Cotsen