It’s a feeling so many high-achieving women know too well. Picture this; You’re sitting in a meeting about to say something utterly brilliant and that annoying little voice in your head stops you in your tracks. It whispers, “Don’t say it, your words aren’t going to convince anybody.”
Meet impostor syndrome. A habitual fear of being exposed as a fraud. It tells you that you don’t deserve to be recognised for your successes and at any moment, somebody will rumble your fakery and pull you up on it.
Well I’m happy to tell you that you’re not alone. Some of the world’s most successful women, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg battle with impostor feelings.
Here are some of the most common ‘impostor feelings’ we get and my tips for overcoming them once and for all.
1. “I sailed through this project on luck but next time it won’t be so easy, and then everyone will discover I’m a fraud.”
You didn’t get this far on pure luck alone. “The only time you should prepare to fail is when you fail to prepare”, my friend and fellow WICT board member Judy Goldberg once said to me.
If you slogged your guts out on that presentation, the chances are, you didn’t wing it. Telling yourself you did is only setting you up for more apprehension next time.
2. “I’m not going to speak up in this meeting or presentation because my opinions aren’t important enough.”
This is hugely common amongst young people in the workplace, and especially for women.
You were invited to take part in that meeting or brainstorming session for a reason. Even the smallest idea or a few words can sway a bad decision, spark new ideas or direct the course of a conversation in an impactful way.
Maybe someone in the room is thinking the exact same thing as you but is also too anxious to speak up. Don’t let your ideas slip away so easily.
If you really don’t feel like sharing anything, pipe up at the end of a meeting and summarise the key action points or ask how you can help in terms of next steps. This is a great way of reminding everyone of what needs to be done next and also demonstrates that you were engaged throughout.
Bottom line: Say what’s on your mind. What’s the worst that could happen?
3. “Everybody thinks I have strong, creative solutions but one day, I’ll run out of ideas.”
Ever have those days where you simply can’t get the creativity to flow? Getting bogged down by not being able to think creatively can lead to a perpetual cycle of frustration and self doubt. Take a break, go for a walk, catch up with a colleague and maybe reflect on a problem with them.
The neon green sign flashing the answer could light up at any moment. Getting out of your own head is often critical to developing new ideas.
Most importantly, remember that you’re not a machine. Don’t be so harsh on yourself.
I spotted this Instagram post this morning and I think it illustrates some awesome and very simple ways to take a break and clear your mind.
My Anti-Impostor Feeling Mantra
I find it helps to say this out loud on the days I’m not feeling too sure of myself.
“You’re an expert in your field. Sit up and share your thoughts and ideas with conviction and confidence. Nobody knows this better than you.”
What’s your best advice for someone who experiences impostor feelings more often than they should?