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  • Writer's pictureHelen Frewin

Imposter Syndrome

If you want to stop feeling like an imposter, then stop thinking like an imposter.

What if you’re part of the problem?

That’s an ouch question!

The thing is, with all the workshops and 1:1 coaching we’re running on anxiety, wellbeing, imposter syndrome, confidence etc, the assumption is that the individual needs to work on these things. Yet what are we doing in our organisations and teams that might be keeping anxiety and imposter syndrome at its peak?

It would certainly be odd of us to say individuals might be part of the problem as leaders, when a lot of this comes down to the challenges of uncertainty, change and organisational culture – things outside of their control. Yet, if we recognise some or all of these anxiety promoters in our organisations, then we might start seeing what we could do differently.

So, are you…

Focusing on the negative – What is changing, how much uncertainty there is, meaning people are experiencing fear?

Moving the goalposts / changing objectives – So it’s hard for people to know if they are doing a good job?

Promoting a lack of boundaries, working all hours, rewarding others who do the same – Which can leave people feeling they should also have no boundaries and working long hours is the only way to be valued?

Holding back praise or positive feedback – Maybe out of a concern for people asking for a promotion/pay rise or simply because we’re too busy, but it drives a feeling in people that they are not valued or appreciated?

Presenting a strong, even macho image of leaders, the opposite of vulnerability – We make out that this leader is just talented and didn’t have to work hard, or that leader was able to make fast decisions without consultation or concern… leaving others to think that they are not good enough if they have to work hard or involve their team?

If we want to help our colleagues manage their anxiety and feelings of being an imposter, then we need to consider what we might be doing that contributes to the problem. For many of us, we feel the anxiety, tell ourselves we’re not good enough, don’t know enough, shouldn’t be here… and then we spiral into criticising ourselves for feeling anxious, how that means we’ll stumble over our words, “why do I do this to myself?!”

But there is hope, the key to using imposter syndrome to our advantage or overcoming the downsides, is to use the anxiety well. What if the next time you felt that anxiety and started thinking, “I shouldn’t be here, I’m not good enough…” you paused.

Took a breath.

And asked yourself a few questions…

What is the objective of this meeting / project?

What value can I add to that?

What specific information do I feel I’m lacking, in order to add value?

Who can I learn that from?

Realising you do not know everything does not make you an imposter, it makes you human. It’s what you do about that, that matters.

What if one of the ways you add value, is by being the person who asks the questions, finds out more, challenges assumptions and shares the insights gained?


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