Do you ever look at where you have got to and question how you did it? When you look at others around you do you compare yourself unfavourably to them and feel like you might be a bit of a fraud?
Welcome to impostor syndrome and what was my world for much of my corporate life.
After leaving school at sixteen and bumbling around with clerical jobs for a few years I lucked my way into my first Executive role as an Internal Auditor, after applying for a job simply because no one else did. Luckily it turned out I was pretty good at it and my career developed in leaps and bounds from that point.
But the further up the ladder I moved the more I began to get a sense that I was winging it and would, in all likelihood, get caught out, at some point. Some of this feeling was born out of a deep lack of inner confidence I had as a child but it was exacerbated by being surrounded by graduate qualified accountants. Even though I completed a course of professional studies to achieve a recognised accreditation in my profession, it still didn’t feel like I was enough.
The term ‘impostor syndrome’ first appeared in research conducted into high achieving women when it was noted that they tended to believe they were being over-evaluated by others. Impostor syndrome is not gender specific though and seventy percent of people experience impostor syndrome in some situations or points in their life.
Many of the clients I work with, both business owners and directors, in companies, suffer with some level of impostor syndrome and it is easy to discount it as a minor inconvenience. But the damage it does, both in terms of personal wellbeing and business results is massive. The costs of not seeing your full potentiality and the contribution you make to your own success, might look insignificant but build up to result in
- Missed opportunities – you become less likely to embrace and pursue newer, bigger opportunities that risk public failure
- A tendency to perfectionism – you’ll never be satisfied with the quality of what you are producing and will waste time in the pursuit of an elusive level of perfection that may simply not exist
- Avoidance or procrastination – you’ll avoid or defer situations, conversations, decisions and actions that might risk exposing you
- Overworking – you’ll tend to work longer hours and harder than everyone else to make up for your perceived shortfalls
- Safe performance – Without you even realising your decisions and actions will be mediated by your fear of exposing yourself and making public mistakes.
- Defensiveness – When it comes to dealing with others you are more likely to adopt a defensive footing (in my case this would often show up as a confrontational stance) which can interrupt you ability to build good relationships.
These small often isolated and hidden performance barriers add up over time, moving you away from the optimum balance of wellbeing and performance. For me they created an underlying level of stress and anxiety that really detracted from my enjoyment of many of the roles I did in the corporate world.
For executives, entrepreneurs and business owners impostor syndrome can deeply affect their ability to create the business and results they want.
Confronting the impostor.
First and foremost, awareness is everything. I participated in an exercise around seven years ago that dramatically outed all of the B.S. I had been telling myself (I use something similar in working with many of you) and in a moment I began to recognise my own value, much more clearly. From time to time I doubt myself but I now notice the thinking before I act on it. Its been pretty helpful.
Secondly I became Director of my own PR division. I made sure that I sought feedback, good and bad, for everything I did . I created a positive news feed in my head. When a client decides to work with me I make sure I know why they chose me, when they get a good result or a shift in perspective I make sure they tell me. When the clouds of self doubt cover my clear mind (it happens a lot) I read a few pages from my book, a case study or a testimonial, just to remind myself. If that doesn’t work I shift my state; go to the gym, read something interesting that I can use in my work or go for a quick birdwatch. It doesn’t take too long before my state of mind resets and I am good to go again.
Thirdly I engage in CleanActionThinking (copyright). This is a way of challenging and refining the perspectives you hold in any situation, particularly where a high level of acuity is required in order to make a good commercial decision, effectively communicate or take committed action. It also removes deeply set limiting beliefs and patterned responses enabling you to see a wider range of potential ideas and solutions.
Impostor syndrome is simply a layer of thinking about yourself which can, if you let it, interfere with your ability to see your company, your market and yourself as they truly are. This muddies the water and can drive hesitation, doubt, procrastination and sub optimal decisions, all of which hold up progress in pursuit of the business and lifestyle you really want.
CleanActionThinking is the framework I use while coaching business owners but it is also a way of thinking many of my clients have gone on to apply (whether they were aware of it or not) way beyond the end of the work they have done with me. It is the ultimate way to liberate yourself and see the full expanse of opportunity that exists for your business in every moment.
If you’d like to step through the looking glass and take a look at how to quickly get your entrepreneurial or commercial career project exactly where you want it to be, then book a discovery session with me and I’ll demonstrate how CleanActionThinking can change forever how you engage with your company and your results.Share