Imposter syndrome, for those who don’t know, is a feeling that you do not have the right to be there, wherever ‘there’ is for you. People use it in a work context to convey that they are operating at a level or in a field where they feel they do not have the level of skill or knowledge needed to justify being there. They may tell others, ‘hey, I don’t deserve to be here’ or keep it quiet but fear being found out.
WHAT IS IT?
Imposter syndrome is not about the reality of whether you objectively belong (or not). It’s about a feeling that you don’t belong. Others may see you as very much deserving of a seat at the table. But all the time you don’t see yourself that way, or worry that others don’t, then you’re a potential victim of imposter syndrome. But do you really have it? Here’s how to work it out and deal with it if you do:
TRY TO HONESTLY APPRAISE YOURSELF
First, you need to get some critical distance on your own work performance. Look at your recent appraisals and talk to colleagues who will be fair and honest. Are you doing the right work? Is it high enough quality? What, if anything, do you need to do to improve?
IF YOU ARE UNDERPERFORMING…
If there are some problems and gaps, facing up to them is a good idea. Don’t assume you have imposter syndrome – you may genuinely need to do some work to operate at the correct level. That’s fine. You can identify your weaknesses and start to fill them in
IF THERE’S LITTLE OR NO EVIDENCE YOU ARE UNDERPERFORMING…
If everything objectively suggests you’re performing well, and your colleagues agree, then you may well have a case of imposter syndrome to tackle. You need to start working on increasing your sense of achievement, and that you deserve to be there.
EMBRACE ‘GOOD ENOUGH’
The biggest step is to let go of a sense of perfectionism and embrace ‘good enough.’ If plenty of others think it’s good enough, this is the time to trust them. You need to show some self-compassion and realise that setting the bar this high is damaging your self-worth. And finally, become more public and comfortable with your shortcomings and failings. If something goes wrong, talk about it, rather than trying to cover it up in case people start to see you as an imposter. Vulnerability, to a certain level, is an admirable trait of a 21st century leader.
Three resources to help:
- Why being ‘good enough’ is better:
- Be a leader who encourages ‘good enough’:
- Practising self-compassion:
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