Monday, May 02, 2016

Top Tips for Beating Imposter Syndrome

by Gabrielle O’Brien
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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you didn't belong? Have you questioned your capability and turned down an opportunity believing you were not fit for it? Have you felt like you have had to “fake” that you should be in your position? 

You may have a case of Imposter Syndrome, but before you stress, you should know that it is completely normal and manageable.

To begin, lets look at what the term “Imposter Syndrome” means. The most commonly used definition of Imposter Syndrome comes from the Caltech Counselling Centre in California. They define Imposter Syndrome as a "collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence".  

Although both men and women can experience this fraudulent feeling, men tend to be more able to hide it and can fake confidence, compared to women, who are more likely to take a step back and hang in their comfort zones until they feel comfortable to take smaller, “safer” steps to get to that goal. When they get there, they feel as though they have to work twice as hard to prove they actually do belong there. It is a paralysing feeling and can be extremely detrimental to progression.

Drawing on the work of Performance Catalyst, Suzanne Mercier, I have highlighted three ways for beating Imposter Syndrome.

  • Know your strengths and embrace your weaknesses
    A quote from Albert Einstein that I love, is “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The difference between us and the fish in this scenario, is that the fish will never be able to climb the tree, where as we can recognise our short-comings and work on building them.

    Be familiar with your strengths and weaknesses. If it helps, write a list of all the tasks you are expected to achieve at work. Rate each task from 1 to 10, where 1 represents the tasks that you really struggle with, and 10 represents tasks you could almost achieve with your eyes closed. This is a great way to help with time management and also assists in identifying what areas need more development and training. If you find yourself struggling with identifying your strengths and weaknesses, then ask for feedback. Feedback is a great way to recognise what areas need to be built on. Do not overthink feedback or take it personally. Have confidence in yourself and use it in a positive light as a structure for knowing what areas you can focus next on building into a strength

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions
    Admittedly, in the past I have been hesitant in asking questions. The issue for me was that I never wanted the person I was speaking with, to think that I was not intelligent because I couldn’t grasp the concept of what they were talking about. So, instead of asking questions I would simply nod and add to the conversation the occasional “Yes, absolutely” or “I know what you mean.” when I really had no idea what they were talking about!

    I have learnt through my experience that asking questions can create a much more stimulating conversation for both involved, and it can also save embarrassment down the line if the subject were to resurface.

    I have been able to create more meaningful conversations by asking questions and have been able to actually grow my own knowledge by making the effort to find out what the person is talking about, rather than avoiding it.

    Have the confidence to ask questions if you are unsure. Everyone has their own strengths in different areas so do not feel foolish: ask and learn!

  • Take credit for your achievements
    Know when you have done a good job and congratulate yourself for it. I do not think people share their achievements enough! I love it when I see my network sharing their successes on social media. There is something about seeing other people achieving that motivates me and I wish I saw more of it.

    There is a difference between gloating and being proud and I do not think you should ever been hesitant to share news when you have achieved something great. It is not just a good way to keep your network up to date with what is happening in your life but works effectively as a confidence booster! Share your achievements and remind yourself of them when you are having a bad day!


    Remember, Imposter Syndrome is a completely normal and common feeling that doesn't need to stop you from fulfilling your aspirations. If you feel as though you really do not belong where you are, remind yourself of the above three steps. You have been put in your position for a reason so work through and embrace the challenges that come with it. 

    Share your top tips for addressing Imposter Syndrome, I'd love to hear from you!  

  • Author Bio 
    Gabrielle O’Brien is a 23 year old Kiwi now living in Sydney, finding her feet as she starts paving the path to a stellar career! Follow her on Instagram @gabbyob

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