Don’t run away from your impostor. Take care of it!

Throughout the month of November, we at The Globe Team have been sharing insights on Imposter Syndrome and ways to tackle it from different perspectives. Experiencing feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and fraudulence despite actual objective success is not uncommon. If you’ve experienced them before, believe us: you are not alone! Many first-time leaders (and also non-first-time leaders!) have experienced this phenomenon at some time, though not everyone openly talks about it.

Think about the situation(s) where you feel like an impostor. Maybe you feel like the only reason you’re where you are now is because you were lucky. Maybe you’re afraid to be exposed as a fraud during team meetings. Maybe you feel like you just don’t belong. The impostor syndrome is not all bad. It does have some positive aspects and can help you achieve and work harder. At the same time, it can have destructive effects. Remember that your thoughts do not reflect reality. They are merely words. Words can be powerful and it’s not always easy to take a step back and see things for what they actually are. Here are some different tips for you to take care of your own impostor. 

1. Self-reflect

Whenever you push something away, it just becomes bigger. Why don’t you try to tune into the radio in your head and acknowledge the voice? Where is it coming from? Pay close attention to the content of your thoughts, zoom out and challenge your thinking. Negative self-talk can only lead to feeling worse and more anxious. Instead, ask yourself these powerful questions from Emma Ogilvie and Shivani Berry:

  1. “What evidence do I have to prove this belief?” Most likely you have received positive feedback on your work in the past. Is the content of the radio really real?
  2. “Does it help to hold on to this belief?” Most likely the answer will be no.
  3. “How does it make me feel to hold on to this belief?” Sometimes the radio can be a very familiar voice you’ve known for many years that has now become your comfort zone. Taking a step back makes you realize that the voice is actually not helping.
  4. “What would happen if I thought the exact opposite?” Reswitch your brain with more positive self talk. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  5. “What would an outside person say? What are 3 reasons my manager/a friend/a colleague would say I am qualified?” A third-person perspective will help you get out of your own head and shift the narrative.
 

Remind yourself, you belong at the table

First-time leaders are more likely to experience the impostor syndrome when they have a big presentation or have to show their work. Before entering a stressful meeting, remind yourself that you’re here for a reason. It’s not about being perfect or being exposed. It might help you to transform the following input from Ali Merchant into your pre-meeting motto: “I’m here to share my expertise. I’m here to add value to the group. I’m here to make a contribution.” If a self-limiting thought crosses your mind, thank your mind and gently remind yourself that you belong. Re-adapt your self-talk and remember that you belong at the table.

Speak to someone you trust

If you’re feeling like an imposter at work, you might find it easier to talk to a friend rather than your manager. Maybe try to find someone from your organization who is working in a different department that you can use as a “sounding board,” and don’t suffer in silence. Your problem is not unique, even though the voice in your head is making you try to believe that. See, the thing with impostor syndrome is that most people do not openly show it or talk about it. “If I’m in a position of power and I’m saying to the world that I don’t think I belong here, what kind of message does that send?” In reality, everyone shares the same insecurities that you have too – including accomplished and successful people. 

British singer James Bay shares in this interview about his specific kind of imposter syndrome despite having won multiple BRIT-awards (from minute 55:25 onwards), and holding himself to standards that may be unrealistic. It can be easy to compare yourself to others in your organization or in the same industry. They seem to have it all together and you end up feeling like you’re not good enough. Don’t let the imposter syndrome make you believe you’re all alone. 

Ask for help

Sometimes it can feel like you just need to figure it all out on your own. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Emma Ogilvie. Not sure how to do something? Ask your manager or an expert on your team. Not sure if you’re on the right track? Ask your manager for feedback. Don’t know what skills you need to succeed in your role? Ask your manager or someone in HR. Feeling like you don’t belong in your job? Ask your manager for suggestions on how to get more involved in your department or other projects. Use open questions to compare your thoughts with outside reality. Your team will share constructive feedback if they see you’re trying to improve yourself. 

Focus on the content, not your thoughts

If the imposter is showing up before big presentations and meetings, try to focus on what you are presenting. It moves the focus towards the fact-based presentation material rather than whether or not you deserve the credit.

 

We hope the tips are helpful to you and will help you take care of your impostor. Remember you don’t need to get away from your imposter or make them disappear. If there is only one thing to take away from it all is that you deserve to be where you’re at.

Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Katrin also offers a new product to support first-time leaders even better: The First-Time Leaders Community. It includes a self-paced video training, regular workshops and exchange with peers, and optional individual coaching sessions. Learn more and join the waitlist already if this could benefit you or your colleagues & friends.

photo by Lucie Greiner