As part of International Women’s Day, my work held a series of seminars aimed at women staff, in order to inspire personal development and confidence.

One of these was about Imposter Syndrome. This was a term that I had only just heard of in the last couple of weeks. I did a little bit of research online and attended the seminar (men were allowed in too!), since this concept resonated with my own experiences of feeling inadequate in the workplace.

Imposter Syndrome is known to occur in high-achieving people, who believe themselves to be inadequate and incompetent at a job, despite evidence to suggest the opposite. They believe that they only got the job or hit an achievement out of luck and that at any point they are going to get found out.

Experts have categorised the five following traits in those who suffer from imposter syndrome:

·       Perfectionists who set excessively high goals for themselves;

·       The SuperWoman/Man who work harder and longer hours than everybody else to measure up to a false perception that everyone around them is the real-deal and they are the phonies;

·       The Natural Genius who feels that if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it;

·       The Rugged Individualist who feels that asking for help reveals his or her phoniness;

·       The Expert who feels they tricked their employer into hiring them and constantly seeks out training or certifications in order to make up for it.

What is similar to all of these traits is comparison to other people and one of the lines that I will remember most from the seminar is ‘Why do we compare our insides with people’s outsides?’. We forget that no matter how confident people look on the outside, many times they are fighting a battle with themselves on the inside, and considering this when we interact with people can really increase our compassion and care for others.

To demonstrate some very surprising examples of this, the seminar host showed quotes from famous actors and other high profile people, such as Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep, who at one point said they felt like imposters.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has been a key figure who overcame her imposter syndrome, having been asked by Mark Zuckerberg at a moment of doubt: ‘What would you do if you weren’t scared?’

I have had coaching enquiries from people who say they suffer from Imposter Syndrome and attending this seminar has really deepened my understanding. As a coach I can help them explore their circumstance, dig down to the root cause of the issue and work with them on positive steps to overcome it.

The seminar finished with three recommendations to people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome:

1. Lean in to discomfort: what would you do if you weren’t scared?

2. Stop ‘winning’, start learning. Don’t be afraid to fail, it is the first step to learning.

3. Own your own feedback: develop a network of feedback-givers who you trust and allow them to tell you honestly and constructively about your work performance.

How do you feel about this? Is Imposter Syndrome preventing you from applying for that promotion; speaking out at work meetings; volunteering to lead a project?

Make an enquiry to Coaching Earth perhaps we can work together to show you that you are not the fraud you think you are!

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