If you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you are dealing with a persistent inability to realistically assess your suitability for a role. You’re not alone – it takes up head space in a large number of people (estimated at around 70% of the population – with Albert Einstein, Serena Williams, Tom Hanks, and Lady Gaga among celebrity sufferers), but that doesn’t help when applying for jobs, and especially during job interviews, when it is important to be (and to be seen to be) confident in your competence and skills.
You may think you’re unaffected, but we can suffer from Imposter Syndrome when operating outside our comfort zone or in a competitive arena. And that’s a frequent scenario for job applicants when it’s easy to only see the success and confidence of others.
Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome include:
- Thinking that your peers are more capable than you are
- Fear of being seen as a failure
- Feeling unworthy of attention
- Downplaying your accomplishments
- Crediting luck for any success you may have
- Holding back from reaching goals you should be able to reach
But Imposter Syndrome exists only in the mind, and we often fail to acknowledge that other people feel exactly the same as we do. Social Media doesn’t help. Very few of us present an honest warts-and-all picture of ourselves. Our accounts are carefully polished; our recycling bins are rammed with images we will never show friends and family, never mind post online. But it rarely clicks that everyone else is doing the same thing. And feeling the same way. You are far from being the only one suffering from Imposter Syndrome. And it is something you can mitigate with a few Imposter Syndrome coping strategies:
Don’t be fooled by comparing yourself to others
It is easy to overestimate how skilful or successful other people are. The reality is that everyone else probably feels just as insecure as you do. They are likely looking at you and wishing they were as calm, confident and successful as you. Don’t compare yourself to others – they could be faking it much more than you are.
Note your accomplishments
Create a list that reminds you of how great you are, and that other people think you’re great too, and refer to this list when you have moments of doubt. This helps reframe your mind and evaporate less helpful thoughts.
Celebrating success helps dispel thoughts that we’re undeserving and gives us confidence in our abilities. Be sure to celebrate small wins as well as large ones. Imposter Syndrome sufferers tend to move on too quickly and treat wins with relief rather than taking pride in an achievement and properly marking it.
We see other people’s successes, but we don’t always notice their flops, whereas we always see our own failures. This gives us a poor perspective and makes us think of ourselves as being less capable in comparison. Opening up with others can help demonstrate that you’re no different and that everyone has the same issues as you do. It can often be easier to speak to strangers than those who know you well.
Samuel Beckett once said, ‘Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’. Failure is not a sign of being awful. Failure is a sign that you’re trying to achieve something. You should give yourself credit for this. One thing is certain, if you never try, you’ll never fail, but you’ll also never become successful.
Talk about it
Don’t be afraid to share your feelings about Imposter Syndrome with others – you may find they’re experiencing the same issues as you. This can give you more confidence and help you see that your thoughts are irrational – particularly when you talk to someone you believe has a good opinion of you.
Reframe your position
Fear can often be the prevailing emotion when it comes to Imposter Syndrome, but you need to look at situations through a different lens. Instead of thinking that any moment everyone will discover that you don’t know what you’re doing, shift things in your head. You may not know all the answers, for now, but you’re smart enough to figure them out – this is a far more empowering way of looking at your situation.
Stop chasing perfection
Being 99% good at something is not a failure. Appreciate that other people may only be capable of doing the same job to 70%. 80% will be good enough, and 90% will be better than most. Don’t think of this as lowering the bar – it’s simply reframing how well you’ve done and what you’ve achieved. Also, many jobs don’t need to be done to 100%. Perfectionists will spend time getting a job from 80% to 100%, but a smarter strategy may be to use that time to do a second task to 80% and get much more done.
Success in anything only exists outside your comfort zone, so you need to take action – feel the fear and do it anyway, even if your head is awash with self-doubt. As your comfort zone expands, have confidence in the fact that your levels of anxiety will reduce automatically.
There’s a great quote by the ladies’ fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who said: You always look at the woman across the room. And you think, ‘The woman across the room is so confident, so poised and so put together, and so on.’ But that woman is looking at YOU. And for her, YOU are the woman across the room. Everybody’s the same. It’s just a big waste of time to be insecure.
Hopefully, there are a few tips in that lot that will help if you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome (and let’s face it, there’s a fair chance that you are, statistically speaking). Too often, Imposter Syndrome holds people back from achieving their full potential, but recognising it for what it is, is a huge step towards fixing it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ian Child is a former corporate leader, co-founder of the training company propertyCEO (propertyceo.co.uk) and the author of ‘Your Own Personal Time Machine’, a guide to getting your life back, available exclusively from amazon.co.uk. in paperback and e-book.