"I think I might be struggling with imposter syndrome."
Many women have feelings of inadequacy, of being unworthy or undeserving of where we're at in life or at work, and have even thought that one day we might be exposed for a fake.
I struggle with it too.
Research has shown that up to 75% of female executives will experience imposter syndrome at least once in their lives. What exactly is it, how does it manifest, and what can we do to overcome it?
What Imposter Syndrome Can Look And Feel Like
The most important conversation we can have is the conversation we have with ourselves. Sometimes that voice that speaks to us tells us the truth, and other times it's straight out lying to us.
You can spot imposter syndrome by noticing thoughts and feelings that include:
- Feelings of self-doubt, doubting your ability in your role, second-guessing your decisions, leading to being indecisive;
- Feelings of unworthiness of our accomplishments, downplaying your achievement, struggling with receiving positive feedback or recognition from others;
- Feeling like a fraud, being fake, thinking you don't know what your doing, don't know enough, fear that people will "find out" you don't see what you're doing.
- Regardless of how skilled you are or how experienced you might be, you struggle with accepting your strengths.
- You might find yourself comparing yourself to others and thinking people are "better than you."
- Thinking things like "I got lucky", being overly humble or modest, claiming that your team did it all.
So, if any of this rings true - what's going on? All of these reactions boil down to fear.
Why Imposter Syndrome Becomes More Difficult For Executives
The best antidote for imposter syndrome is vulnerability. Having someone to talk with about what you're thinking and feeling can help you reframe and take perspective. The challenge is senior leaders and executives don't always have someone to turn to and, the pressure at this level can be intense.
This can trigger imposter syndrome because of the level of responsibility, expectations to deliver, and high levels of stress that can wear someone down.
Many leaders who have been promoted into more senior roles initially have feelings of imposter syndrome from taking the new seat, feeling like they have BIG shoes to fill, or have not earned their position. If you struggle with perfectionism or people-pleasing, this can also become amplified.
How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome, Especially a Female Leader
First off, it's normal to have doubts, fears, worries and insecurities. This is what change does to us. However, learning to take perspective to reframe the conversation you are having with yourself can liberate you from the limiting beliefs that can keep you stuck. This is all part of growth, and it can actually be a big aspect of your personal and professional transformation.
Here's my advice. You are not your thoughts. You are the woman listening to those thoughts. Knowing this is the first step is being able to "detach" from what you are hearing.
I would recommend working with a coach. Having a supportive place to engage in real-talk about your doubts and insecurities is worth its weight in gold. We are trained to help reframe your patterns of thinking into more rational and objective thoughts. This will lead to new beliefs and behaviours. Everyone has felt in over their heads at times; you don't need to go it alone.
If hiring a coach isn't an option for you right now, speaking with a peer inside your organization can also be invaluable. Everyone has had a moment like this - but make sure you talk with someone you trust.
Consider offering up yourself as a mentor inside your organization. This can do wonders to book our confidence. We can forget just how much we can offer, how much we know, how much we've experienced. Plus, it feels good to give. Send the elevator down for someone else.
Finally, hold yourself with some compassion. You have a 100% track record of getting through the tough stuff. I know because you are still here. You don't have to have it all figured out ( that sounds boring anyway).
You're not alone.
Most of us walk around assuming we are the only ones who feel this way. As a coach hosting thousand of conversations with leaders from all backgrounds, I can assure you it's very common. Doing nothing about it, hoping it will fix itself, is not a successful strategy. Leaving these unchecked can become a career derailer, keep you stuck, and the very things you fear are most likely to manifest at some point in the future.
If you'd like to talk about where you might be feeling stuck, I'm here to listen.
You can book a call with me to discuss your goals.