Have you ever felt like a fraud? Like your achievements were a stroke of luck, and that you’re the proverbial duck in the water at work? Whilst you seem calm to others, like a duck’s feet, you’re furiously paddling or working hard to keep afloat? These are features of what has been termed “imposter syndrome.”
Imposter syndrome is the intense self-doubt around one’s own success (Instant office).
It is the persistent feeling that you are not valid, deserved and feeling that you are not as competent as other people seem to think you are. At one point in our life, we have likely all felt like an imposter, as someone who doesn’t belong, as someone who is not as good as everyone else. LMF founder, Sonya Barlow, recently delivered a session on imposter syndrome which focused on how to overcome it.
You are not alone: according to HR news (2019), 66% of women in the UK experience imposter syndrome and 55% of men feel like an imposter. With such high percentages showing the need for more self-confidence and self-advocacy, here at LMFNetwork we decided to contribute positively and support people to become more confident.
LMF (2021) research found that imposter syndrome was one of five reasons people feel they aren’t able to achieve their career goals.
Understanding Imposter syndrome
The workshop was led by Sonya Barlow, the founder of the LMF network. In the workshop, Sonya focused on how the 5 different types of imposter syndrome generally manifest themselves, as researched by Dr.Valerie Young
- Perfectionist: Making everything perfect for the first time, otherwise you feel you’re a failure.
- Natural genius: Expecting yourself to know everything in-depth and therefore carry out tasks perfectly and/or correctly the first time.
- Soloist: Fear of giving away control to someone else and wanting to work by yourself for a higher quality output. If you have you ask for help, you feel that you’re a failure.
- Expert: Expecting to know everything; even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame
- Superhuman: Expecting to be able to juggle and excel in lots of different roles, otherwise you feel that you’re a failure.
Identifying the origin of imposter syndrome
Through the workshop, practical advice shared was in order to combat imposter syndrome, you must identify the following 3 elements and ensure that your daily practice is aligned:
- Vision — what you want to achieve in the future
- Mission — what you are doing now or in the short-term to get to where you want to be in the long-term
- Drivers — your values, what makes you happy, satisfied, proud and fulfilled
Are you feeling like an imposter because of the pressure you are putting on yourself, comparing yourself with another or because you have set high expectations?
A simple example is that if you feel like an imposter when going on a job, consider why you are doing the jog, what is your measure of success and how does it meet your drives, e.g #mentalhealth #wellness. You can focus on confirming your own measures of success, e.g. being able to run 5K by the end of the year — and so, every month you focus on a distance itself, rather than the speed and time.
Practical steps to beating imposter syndrome
During the session, we were reminded to “find your power and be proud of who you are”.
Sonya explained that your power is your unique selling point (USP) that distinguishes you from the rest of the people.
Her in-depth technique into how you can find your power is known as the ‘3 S’s’:
- Skills — write down all of the skills/strengths you have
- Success — note down a success story for each
- So What — what impact, change or result did you drive?
Can you truly beat imposter syndrome?
The answer is YES. Ultimately, you can beat imposter syndrome by:
- Identifying your strengths
- Talking to a trusted person about your feelings as well as for accountability and support
- Documenting your achievements
- Redefining your measure of success
- Sharing your knowledge with your network, and
- Consciously stopping negative thoughts by redirecting them into positive ones
But it’s not just down to employees to beat imposter syndrome
Companies also have a responsibility to ensure their systems do not foster and worsen imposter syndrome in women and other underrepresented groups who are disproportionately affected.
In previous studies of imposter syndrome, implicit biases such as sexism, classism, racism, ableism etc. were not acknowledged or considered. These were instead baked into what is now deemed as ‘professional’ behaviour — based on white norms and standards — which holds marginalised groups up to impossible standards. This causes such built-up anxiety and disillusionment that leaving such toxic environments is the only option.
By unlearning the oppressive systems that are in place, and creating more culturally-appropriate standards for professionalism, companies can create safe spaces through this equity for employees from marginalised communities to truly be themselves. Examples could include transparency for salaries for fairer negotiation, and emphasising preferred new employee characteristics and working style over the required number of years of experience or qualifications. In this way, we can collectively beat imposter syndrome.
LMFNetwork Social Mobility Pillar
The LMF Social Mobility Pillar, led by Maya Welford, was set up in response to the fact that while some progress has been made with levelling the playing field to reduce barriers for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, there’s more work to be done — we aim to make a positive contribution in this space. ‘Combatting Imposter Syndrome & Building Confidence’ is the first of a series of workshops in the social mobility pillar.
LMF launched its social mobility pillar in January 2021 and runs monthly workshops based on five core areas identified as important for career progression and development. While these are open to all, the social mobility pillar aims to raise awareness of barriers to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, empower and upskill those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and will be running its flagship programme in the Summer targeting young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.