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Befriending your Imposter


Meet the Imposter

Have you ever felt like a fraud? Have you ever thought that you are just on the cusp of being found out? Do you feel like everyone else has got it sorted but not you? I know that I have.

In my early career, I had a wonderful line manager and mentor who would continually push me out of my comfort zone. He and I travelled to Greece and Saudi Arabia to deliver HR training to some senior executives from a shipping company. Don asked me to design and run a session on performance management. Off I went to the library (yep, no Amazon or Google in those days) and found some good books on the subject. I created a presentation, read as much as I could about performance management and prepared for our first trip.

I'll never forget, aged 26, standing at that podium in a training room with about 20 middle-aged Greek men, many of whom were chain smoking through the presentations. I took a deep breath and fired up my first slide. When I was only about 1 minute into the talk, one of the managers interrupted and asked what I thought about job descriptions. Whaaaaat? I'd only been learning about performance management. I thought I was going to die, that they were all going to laugh at me or throw me out as the fraud I was...

But one thing I learned about Imposter Syndrome is this: confidence is more important than competence. Somehow, I managed to fudge a response and, because that manager viewed me as an expert, he accepted my response happily.

Have you ever had a moment like that?

Befriend the Imposter

Believe it or not, your Imposter is on your side. Your Imposter is trying to stop you from failing. However, they will often overplay that protective stance. So, how can you keep your imposter in check? Cara gave us 10 top tips which I have taken the liberty of summarising here:

  1. Own your success - you worked hard to get where you are, pat yourself on the back;
  2. Try not to indulge in "comparisonitis" - don't make negative comparisons with other people, run your own race;
  3. Look for evidence - gather, read and save positive feedback you have received;
  4. Focus on your Strengths, Values and Passions - personally, I could write 100 blogs on this one alone;
  5. Gracefully accept compliments - it's empowering to accept a compliment and negative to you and the giver to dismiss it;
  6. Cultivate a Growth Mindset - you may not know everything yet, but you're learning;
  7. Practise mindfulness - it helps you let go of expectations and judgements;
  8. Practise self-compassion - talk to yourself in the same way as you'd talk to your best friend;
  9. We are all the same - remember that Imposter Syndrome is prolific - that uber-confident person next to you is probably feeling the same; and
  10. Physical presence - when you feel that imposter panic rising: stop, breathe and smile.

I've enjoyed revisiting Imposter Syndrome in this past week. It's a really important concept to understand as it can be damaging to your career if you let it get the better of you. Unfortunately, it doesn't ever go away because our minds will always naturally scan for danger. Perhaps, after all, we should see it as feedback - a sign that we are stretching and growing. And this can only be a good thing.

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