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Handling Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome can sometimes creep up and surprise you when you least expect it, creating doubt, uncertainty and impacting your self-confidence.

Imposter Syndrome never disappears, no matter how experienced we might be. The trick is to manage it quickly and effectively when it happens.

The signs could be feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, depression and worry, or even feeling like a fake. A reaction can be over-preparing for, ignoring or procrastinating over tasks, or ignoring any positive feedback.

What can you do when you’ve seen and felt the signs?

Step back and evaluate
Ask yourself what caused the sense of imposter syndrome. Some common reasons could include:

  • It’s been a long time since doing a particular task or activity, have forgotten what is needed, and/or knowledge is out of date.
  • A commitment has been made but there’s now a worry of failing or letting someone down.
  • Some unexpected feedback has created uncertainty and impacted confidence, wiping out all the positive feedback and recognition they’ve received from elsewhere.
  • There’s a more lucrative client involved or there’s a greater outcome resting on some work.

When stepping back, really get to the cause and identify the more significant underlying experience or emotion that’s at play.

Create a strategy and plan
Share your concerns with someone you trust, personally or professionally. They can help you recognise the cause of this feeling, and also help you form coping strategies.

Also consider asking other people for some feedback against an activity or task you performed and also about you in particular.

Remind and re-affirm to yourself your competence, knowledge, skills and experience, which could include:

  • Examples of when you’ve performed a similar activity/task.
  • Reviews, testimonials and feedback received.
  • Your CV which clarifies your previous experience and successes.

Then plan the time to map out the steps to accomplishing the thing that has triggered this imposter syndrome.

Take small steps forward

You’ll make faster and better progress by identifying and committing to small achievable actions.

Take the bigger task at hand and break it down into those small steps. Don’t’ worry if some feel really small! A step such as “Write down the basic headings of my presentation” seems small, but a) achieving that step will give you a small sense of accomplishment which is good for you mentally, and b) you can’t add the detailed content until you know the headings they fall under!

Make a commitment to each of those steps, e.g, that day or week. Don’t over commit yourself though. If you start failing to achieve everything, those feelings of anxiety, doubt and uncertainty could creep back in.

It’s also helped to create some countability and support, engaging with someone you can celebrate those small wins with and who will help keep you on track. Perhaps it’s the same person you shared those initial concerns with, or maybe it’s an experienced coach.

And finally, don’t forget to reward yourself when you achieve some of those small steps and more definitely when you have accomplished the main activity/task! Earn that extra episode of your favourite Netflix series, that extra time in the park with your family or friends, the cheeky take-away dinner or beer…whatever reward will make you think “I deserve this”.