I was hot and flustered as I rushed to get to the networking event on time. I picked up my badge from the reception and walked up the narrow staircase, trying to smooth down my hair at the same time. I could hear lively chat and laughter at the end of the corridor, so I knew I was in the right place. I turned the corner and walked into the room.
My heart sank. I must be in the wrong place. Who are all these smartly dressed confident women? I am WAY out of my league. Maybe if I turn round now, nobody will notice.
Too late, I’ve been spotted.
A hand reaches out “Hello Sherry, nice to meet you. Welcome to our event. What would you like to drink?”
How many times has this happened to you?
How often do you hold back from introducing yourself at a networking meeting because that inner critic in your head tells you “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not ready”?
How often do you stop yourself from putting yourself forward to take on a meaty project or a more challenging client because you think “I’m not experienced enough”?
How often do you look at other mums in business and think “how does she do it? I wish I could be as good as she is. ”
How often do you sit down at the table thinking “this time they’re going to find me out”?
How often do you brush aside praise or compliments “somebody needed to do it” or “it was very much a team effort”?
Business success doesn’t happen by magic
As women we tend to be very good listeners. We’re more than good. We’re brilliant. The trouble is, that means we also listen to that inner critic in our head. Very often we take the advice of the inner critic full of self-doubt and fear rather than acknowledge the evidence in front of us.
The thing is, business success doesn’t happen by magic. It happens on purpose. When I was invited to participate in a work-life balance round table at Legal & General, it wasn’t magic. When Sky News calls me up to ask me back into the studio, it’s not luck or fluke. It’s not me being in the ‘right place at the right time’. It’s not because “nobody else is available”.
How to recognise the Imposter Syndrome
If any of this feels familiar, it may be that you are experiencing the “Imposter Syndrome” too. The Imposter Syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy. It’s that inner voice and inner critic telling you that you don’t deserve to be where you are. That you are there by chance, luck. That you are about to be found out.
Full-blown Imposter Syndrome is chronic self-doubt.
And it affects your confidence. Your creativity. Your decision-making. And if you leave it too long, it will kill your business.
Nearly all of us experience Imposter Syndrome symptoms from time to time. That story at the top – that was me, just last week.
Many high profile women experience that Imposter Syndrome or the noisy inner critic in their head judging them for daring to succeed or even daring to dream. Often the women who experience this are bright, competent and successful. Yet often they find it difficult to accept compliments. Sometimes they don’t believe they’re true.
If you are a perfectionist, raise your hand. Yep, me too. Perfectionists have a greater tendency to suffer the imposter syndrome.
And if you leave it untreated, it will kill your business.
How to cure the Imposter Syndrome
Step 1 – Recognition
First recognise that the Imposter Syndrome and inner critic for what it is. The inner critic is the voice of your self-doubt and fears. Your critic is trying to protect you yet at the same time is often working on evidence from 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. I still remember my French teacher in Year 9 telling me “a lazy worker blames their tools” when I handed in homework covered in ink splotches where my pen had leaked on the page.
That “fear” of being judged as lazy has remained with me for more than 30 years. Logically I know I am not lazy. I know I am hardworking. However that inner critic in my head brings it up all the time “you don’t work hard enough”, “you don’t deserve that promotion”, or “you’re too lazy”, sometimes whispering so quietly that I almost don’t hear it.
Recognition – and acceptance – is the first step to curing the imposter syndrome.
Step 2 – Accept praise
Start paying attention to how you receive praise. Be mindful of how you receive compliments. Do you brush it aside or do you thank the person for offering the praise? Notice what you notice. In business, people rarely offer compliments or praise for the sake of it.
For now, if you find it difficult to accept the praise, at least acknowledge that their perception is different to yours. A simple “Thank you” rather than “Oh it was nothing, really”.
If you find this really hard, perhaps consider that if you reject the compliment, you are rejecting that person’s point of view. And their point of view is just as valid as yours.
Step 3 – Acknowledge your achievements
Take care to acknowledge your own achievements. Look at your successes. Make a list. Keep it factual. Don’t qualify what goes on the list. Include things that maybe you didn’t recognise at the time as a success.
Share your achievements with others. Not all at once but give yourself permission to drop nuggets into conversation. Watch and observe how others do this.
Keep adding to the list of achievements and successes. Read the list out loud. Get comfortable with the list. Don’t feel you have to apologise.
Step 4 – Notice what you notice
Notice what you notice about the language you use and the thoughts you think.
Do you use words such as “it was just” or “it was nothing”?
Pay attention to your negative thoughts and reframe them to be positive thoughts.
Step 5 – Talk it through
Get yourself an accountability buddy or a coach or a supportive friend and talk it through. Somebody who can be objective.
Often talking it through out loud gives you a different perspective. Articulating our thoughts and fears helps us to realise how unreal or untrue the thoughts are.
Your next steps to cure the Imposter Syndrome
In this article we have explored how to recognise the imposter syndrome, the damage it can do to your business and looked 5 simple steps to cure the Imposter Syndrome.
- Step 1 – Recognition
- Step 2 – Accept praise
- Step 3 – Acknowledge your achievements
- Step 4 – Notice what you notice
- Step 5 – Talk it through
If Imposter Syndrome is killing your business or your business confidence, what one thing will you do today?
Sherry Bevans is our guest blogger this week; Sherry is an author, coach and speaker. She is a former Global Head of IT Service for a City law firm. After 25 years in the City, she created The Confident Mother, an independent coaching practice. Connect with Sherry through her Facebook Group, LinkedIn and Twitter account. You can also listen to Sherry’s weekly podcast show here.