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Are you an imposter?

Imposter syndrome is more common that one might think. Just last week, I was moderating a panel for the Women’s Executive Network and one of the panel members said she is afraid that people will find out that she is an imposter. If you dismiss your achievements and think that your success is due to luck, a fluke or being in the right place at the right time, you might also suffer from imposter syndrome.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is more common in women than men however I haven’t done a scientific study to back that up. It seems to me that it is largely due to how women are socialized. They aren’t encouraged to take credit for their achievements or to stand up for themselves.

If this resonates with you, there is good news as there are steps you can take to over come it.

  1. Acceptance – acknowledge that you have imposter syndrome. Taking that first step to awareness is really important. Catch your thinking patterns and identify the thinking patterns as soon as possible. For example you might catch yourself saying “I don’t deserve this promotion”. So notice it- “that sounds like imposter syndrome”

  2. Modify the pattern – take a step towards owning your success. In this case this might be as simple as accepting a complement with a “thank you”. Or it might be “I feel like I don’t deserve this promotion but it is likely fear talking. It is normal for people to be fearful when taking on a new challenge”.

  3. Practice self acceptance – many imposters are also perfectionists and they only give themselves credit if things are perfect. Let’s face it, we can be our own worst critic and so finding something you did that was perfect might be a challenge. Instead of noticing the imperfections – focus on what went right. “I really nailed the sales presentation” or “I really connected with my customer and that feels great”. Our own negativity bias makes it harder to focus on the positive than the negative so keep working at it until it becomes more natural.

  4. Practice self care – take time to look after yourself. Perhaps people suffering from imposter syndrome work hard to make up for it. Go to yoga, meditate, find a coach or supportive friend or therapist. Share your experience and ask them for honest feedback.

  5. Know that you are not alone. Many people suffer from imposter syndrome so know that you are not alone. In fact, imposter syndrome resonated with many of the participants at the WNX workshop – it seemed like a common infliction. In fact, One study suggests that 70% of people suffer from it at some time in their life.

When I hear successful women dismissing their successes I want to challenge them to own them. If you are one of them, I challenge you to own your success! I would love to hear about your successes and how you are going about it owning them.

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