Are you questioning the successes you’ve had in your career? Is it your new job title, a senior-level meeting you have been invited to attend by management, or a particularly difficult project that you have been tasked to take the lead on? It may come as a surprise that many high achievers share the same dirty little secret: deep down they feel like complete frauds who question their accomplishments and ability to perform their jobs. This is known as ‘imposter syndrome’ – a belief that you’re an incompetent failure who is inadequate and not suited to the job, despite the evidence that would suggest otherwise in terms of skills and qualifications. It can leave us feeling like we’re frauds when we feel our successes are underserved and may be based on timing, luck, or other factors outside of our control, rather than embracing the fact that we’re responsible for having made those successes happen.
In short, it’s a toxic mindset that can hurt your confidence, the relationships you have with colleagues, and the potential growth you have as an employee within an organization. A study by The Independent found that almost a third of millennials in the UK struggle with imposter syndrome on a daily basis. If you’re among of that number, don’t be scared, you’re more deserving of the successes you’ve had in your career than you think. Here are some simple ways to help boost your confidence today.
1) AVOID SELF-HANDICAPPING AND DEFENSIVE PESSIMISM
If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, you will be especially prone to anxiety and shame when things don’t quite go your way. You may question your lack of ability and talent when this happens, and if you see yourself as a fake, it’s likely you will adopt either or both of two psychological habits when confronted with a new challenge. The first is defensive pessimism, which is about fearing the worst case scenario and trying to avoid it from happening. This may be through working excessively hard and pushing yourself beyond your breaking point. The other psychological habit is known as self-handicapping. This is when you deliberately hurt your chances of success by leaving a project until the last minute by over thinking what needs to be done, which in turn will give yourself an excuse for when things go wrong.
These two habits may sound like they’re contradicting one another, but they each contribute towards a toxic mindset that can turn feelings of impostorism into a deliberating and chronic state of mind. If you wish to overcome this, you need to rediscover what gets you excited, rather than just seeing the completion of a project as a measurement of success. Yes, you need to put in the required work and effort that a project deserves, but try to ensure that you find it rewarding for reasons that are your own.
2) DON’T FORGET YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
When was the last time you set aside some time to recount all of your achievements? Yes, no matter how much you question your ability, you have a lot of positive qualities and achievements that need to be recognized. If you’re struggling to identify them, select a friend or trusted co-worker you trust to talk to about your waning self-confidence. He or she can help remind you of your strengths during those times of self-doubt and irrational fear in order to boost your confidence.
Visualizing your own and other’s past successes helps to combat negative thinking because simply reminding yourself that something is possible helps to make unfamiliar situations feel less threatening for the brain.
3) STOP MAKING UNJUST COMPARISONS
If you’re feeling like an imposter, it could be due to a comparison you’re making between yourself and others.
Maybe you have ridiculously high standards and feel like you’re not measuring up to them? Do you look towards your peers who are bounding ahead in their careers and you’re feeling left behind due to this? Typically the sense of not feeling good enough at a task or job comes through comparison. If you want to stamp out this mentality, you need to stop comparing yourself to others and quit worrying about what stage you should be at in your career by now. Negative thinking will only lead to a downward spiral for you and won’t help improve your performance with projects, meetings, and any interviews you have lined up for new roles.
4) DISMISS ANY DOUBTS
Have you ever sat in a meeting and been asked questions that you can’t answer? It’s easy to feel like an imposter when you don’t have the answer, but similar to when you’re presented with an impossible deadline, you’re not perfect, so don’t kick yourself when things don’t quite go your way. You haven’t been involved in every kind of project, worked in every industry, or mastered every skill set that you may gain throughout your career. Let’s face it, “experts” are just like the rest of us in that they have to keep reading and learning to set themselves apart from others, and even then, they will not have the answers to every question.
Improvisation is part and parcel of your professional career, and the ability to work to the best of your ability when presented with a challenge is when you will learn new skills and push yourself to new heights. While applying your experience is the correct and appropriate thing to do, everyone at some point will make it up as they go along at some point in their career. They won’t speak about it in public though.
When that critical voice in your head kicks off again, don’t allow it to go unchallenged. Identify when you’re hardest on yourself and ask whether there’s something in particular that triggers your self-doubt. If that voice is telling you that you’re not good enough, take time to reflect on your list of achievements that you’re particularly proud of. Over time, that voice will get quieter and quieter, you’ll feel more confident in your abilities, and the confidence you have on a daily basis will slowly start to improve. You’re not where you are today due to luck, but rather your skills, your talent, and the hard work and dedication you’ve shown throughout your career.