This week I've spoken to two #First90Days clients about their imposter syndrome. Both are hugely talented vibrant fundraisers who have made different but both challenging choices in their new roles. Both of whom, their new employers are lucky to have. And yet both of whom have been fighting the imposter voices in their own heads.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which a person, doubts their own achievements and is persistently scared of being found out as a fraud. Rather than acknowledging their accomplishments, those with imposter syndrome instead acknowledge success in convincing others they are more intelligent / successful / experienced then they see themselves as being.
The term imposter phenomenon was first used in 1978 by Drs Pauline Clance Suzanne Imes in an article exploring "The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention". When the phenomenon was first introduced, it was thought to only be experienced by high achieving women. Now, estimates suggest this is not the case and that actually, around 70% of people (regardless of gender) will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.
Trigger points many form around new experiences: new jobs, new relationships; new friendships; new houses etc.
Making the move into a new job can be a major trigger point. You've been in your current role for a period of time. You are known. You know the role. And the organisation, and the people and the systems and the volunteers and the supporters and where the stationery cupboard is. And so on. And when you move to a new organisation, many of these suddenly become unknown. And the imposter voice in your head starts to convince you that you don't know enough to the do job you have gained fairly, squarely and justly through a considered recruitment process.
A significant part of my First 90 Days programme works with 'movers' to help them work on their mindset and the shifts and tweaks that are needed to make a smooth and effective transition and to start the new, often elevated role without being held back by mental blocks.
Five Recognised Imposter Personalities
Perfectionists set themselves extremely high standards and expectations and set extremely high expectations for themselves, and consider themselves failures if they meet anything but 100% of their goals. They will question their competence at even the smallest mistake or omission
Experts have to know every single detail before they will start a project. They constantly seek to improve themselves and persistently engage in new training, qualifications and learning. If they do not meet 100% of the criteria, they will not apply for a job. They will not speak up, ask questions or offer an answer in public, a class or a meeting for fear of getting it wrong and looking stupid.
The Natural Genius was the person you hated at school who did minimal work, no revision and yet still sailed through their exams with As. But when the Natural Genius comes across something they have to puzzle over, really work hard at, or even struggle to complete, this causes feelings of self doubt, lack of self worth. Their need to work harder or overcome the struggle is proof of their imposter status
Soloists have only accomplished something if they have done it on their own. If they need help or to benefit from skills or abilities of others, this too means they are a fraud, a failure.
Supermen/women have to be working harder than anyone else around them. They have to get in first, leave last, and push themselves and succeed in all areas of life, not just at work. Anything else renders them an imposter. Supermen/women can even experience stress when they're not accomplishing anything.
So how do you overcome the imposter inside?
1) Separate thoughts and facts - where is the imposter evidence as opposed to the imposter thoughts?
2) Practice acknowledging thoughts as just thoughts. Let them be. But don't give them more airtime than that.
3) See your 'difference' as reason for celebration and specialism, not as inadequacy or imposter. Never mind what you see (or perceive) that everyone else has / knows - they've already got that covered! What do you have / know that they don't and therefore what new and extra do you bring?
4) Celebrate and learn from any genuine failures and turn them into positives. The only difference between the you in your head and those around you who you perceive as having succeeded is that they didn't let the fear of failure/imposter stop them from trying
5) Acknowledge up front what your imposter inducing areas might be and create a plan to address them so you have something to combat the negative thoughts with if and when they arise
6) Before starting the imposter-inducing activity or work, instead of allowing the imposter to 'speak', visualise what success would look like and keep that front of mind. Having seen and visualised the successful outcome will help you achieve it
7) Really take a good look at the reality of others who your imposter syndrome is making comparisons with. They are just the same as you. They are still figuring it out too. You just can't see the same imposter suggestions buzzing round the inside of their heads
8) Compare yourself today to yourself this time last year not this time yesterday. Being able to see and acknowledge development and improvement helps counter the imposter argument
9) See yourself as your biggest fan, your cheerleader sees you. Reflect that image back to yourself and really recognise it as you!
10) (my favourite!) Give the imposter a name - I give mine the name of someone I really don't like, someone who I can quite happily shout (and usually swear) at, someone whose opinion I really don't care about. In fact, choose someone who you would happily let down, upset or P*ss off! And see them and their impact on your life and on the imposter-inducing situation pale into insignificance
The First 90 Days is a programme specifically created to support people starting a new job. Ideally starting while you are still in the previous role (but not essential) this weekly coaching programme walks you though the process, from achieving a successful finish and closure from the initial job to a planned, positive and successful first 90 days in the new role.
Mindset, up levelling and dealing with imposter syndrome are core elements of the #First90Days programme and of my other coaching work