Alex Butler decides to come clean and tell you that she has ‘imposter syndrome’.
At no point in my career have I ever felt that I’m ‘there’ yet. That I’ve made it. Mastered my role. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. It’s almost been worse since I went independent. The very act of having to promote myself seems to feed the paranoia that someone will find me out very soon.
It’s the little voice inside my head saying that I’m not as good as everyone else that seems to think that I just got lucky, and any moment now I’ll be found out and outed.
Sadly, Imposter Syndrome often stops us really enjoying our good moments because we’re worried it can’t last.
Getting over yourself
I wonder whether that’s actually a good thing, or whether I should find a way to get over myself.
“Imposter syndrome” is much more common that you might think and even for people that the rest of the world might see as successful. You might recognise some names in this article from Caroline Dowd-Higgins recently on The Huffington Post. She reckons that there are ways to manage your feelings of being a fraud, but the worry about being unmasked actually has its upsides.
“There are high-achieving celebrity impostor syndrome sufferers including Tina Fey, Maya Angelou, and Sheryl Sandberg, who have all openly admitted to feeling like an impostor at some point during their careers,” If the likes of Facebook’s COO suffers from occasionally feeling like she’s faking it, no wonder so many of us experience imposter syndrome.
I’ll regularly brush off compliments and downplaying my achievements, saying that I was ‘in the right place at the right time’, only one of a team, or that ‘anyone could have done it’. I hate bragging. But there’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-destruction.
How do I cure my imposter syndrome?
I have searched everywhere for the answer to this, but the general consensus of opinion is that it might actually work in your favour.
Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, advises that “when you feel yourself sliding into competence extremism, recognize it for what it is. Then make a conscious decision to stop and really savour those exhilarating mental high points and forgive yourself for the inevitable lulls.”
“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud,” writes Young in her book.
Indeed, many might say that feeling drives you to better things. It creates restlessness and a desire to keep being better at what you do.
The mark of success
Have you noticed something though? You are far less likely to hear less competent people say that they think they are a fraud. Oh no. They will bluster through making it up as they go along with impunity and a confident smile of authority.
A very wise mentor once asked if I only responded to job advertisements when I could tick all the competence boxes rather than a handful. She remarked that in her experience, as a senior manager that wasn’t true of some of the people we thought were quite successful in the business.
Perhaps we are overemphasizing the accomplishments of others and vastly underestimating either general ordinariness or the failures other successful people experience on their way to success.
So don’t stress if you feel like an impostor sometimes. You’re in good company, you’re probably wrong in your fears, and, on the contrary, are probably doing rather well. All you need to do is ride out that feeling of faking it.