Developing the confidence to overcome imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is used to describe the secret worry that you are not really good enough, experienced enough or equipped enough, and that you will be ‘found out’ and exposed as an imposter at some point.
First defined over 40 years ago, imposter syndrome can affect both men and women and impact on all aspects of people’s lives, from relationships and social interactions through to careers. In the world of work, imposter syndrome tends to be more prevalent in women because generally they are less self-confident and more self-critical than men. It is seen as a key barrier to women progressing their careers and to achieving gender diversity at senior levels, which is why we tackle these feelings within our Women’s Leadership Programme.
Sufferers will often believe that their success to date has been down to external factors such as luck, being in the right place at the right time or because other people have an overinflated idea of their abilities. This self-doubt can hold people back from applying for new jobs or promotions, making their voice heard or putting themselves forward for new projects or challenges.
Having the confidence to overcome imposter syndrome
One of the biggest elements to overcoming imposter syndrome is to build self-confidence. Many women we talk to through our Women’s Leadership Programme have said that their number one issue is around their own confidence. Having confidence can enable you to operate at your full potential and to stretch yourself to further develop and progress. Confidence also breeds confidence. If you demonstrate confidence in yourself, others will also tend to be confident in your abilities.
Here are just a few of the areas we cover when exploring ways to develop more self-confidence and to increase our delegates belief in their abilities.
Confident body language
Most of us are aware that our body language gives non-verbal cues to other people about our confidence levels, but did you know your body can also trick your own mind into being more confident? Research conducted by Amy Cuddy has shown that faking body language to convey confidence to others can also have a big impact on ourselves. A significant change in posture can lead to a significant change in our own attitude, until people are no longer faking it and actually feel and become more confident. Watch this presentation video by Amy to find out more about how changing your posture can help you to configure and prepare your brain to cope best with challenging situations.
Many people use positive affirmations to ensure they focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t do. Positive self-talk rather than negative self-talk can make a huge difference to confidence levels. Think about what you would say to a friend if they shared the same thoughts with you. Write down some key achievements from your career history, both little wins and big milestones, to remind yourself that you are good at what you do and that you have generated your own success.
Push yourself to think ahead and face your self-doubt. Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid? Imagine you did have the reassurance of a crystal ball. What would you do if you knew it would all work out okay?
Develop a support community
Discovering that what your worries are not uncommon and that other people have the same feelings of self-doubt is reassuring and bolstering in itself. Performance psychology expert Clare Josa, who is considered the UK's leading authority on Imposter Syndrome, sums it up by saying: “The problem with Imposter Syndrome is that it’s taboo. Sufferers don’t want to tell anyone they experience it. On the outside, they often appear confident, and may be high achievers, but they experience this secret guilt and shame.”
Being able to talk about your concerns and doubts with people you can trust and having people around you who will help you to challenge your inner critic is extremely helpful. The Women’s Leadership Programme continues to provide a source of practical and emotional support beyond the three-month programme as all delegates remain part of a strong alumni network across the East of England.