IMPOSTOR: noun
A person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name.

Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? Like you didn’t really take the necessary steps to get where you are and that you aren’t as qualified as people think you are? Do you write off your success so far as a coincidence of luck, timing, or being able to convince others that you are somehow more competent than you really are? If so, there’s a big chance you are suffering from a condition psychologists have coined as “impostor syndrome.”

Don’t worry – impostor syndrome isn’t a mental illness. It isn’t a disease or an insidious personality trait that is going to derail all areas of your life either. What it is, rather, is the inability of high-achieving individuals to internalize their accomplishments while having a persistent sense of somehow being a fraud.

The first time I stumbled across this theory was whilst chatting with a friend I am going to call Mike. Mike is a high-flying lawyer and was telling me how he had just won a big award for his achievements. While up on stage, he had two thoughts: “Why Me?” and “Well, at least I get to keep my job for another year!” Signature impostor syndrome!

Now, I coach a lot of incredibly talented businessmen and women, many of whom are at the top of their corporate ladders, leading big teams, big business, and making big money. They’ve achieved career success! Yet, periodically I will meet a coachee who is nervous about their competence and surprisingly humble, even dismissive of their achievements. That’s when it clicks – we could have a case of imposter syndrome in the room!

So, you’ve read this far and might be thinking, “That’s me! I have it! But what can I do about it?” Well here’s a secret… Once you’ve recognized it, it’s not so hard to tackle. Here’s how I help my clients:

  • First off, if it’s happening to you, you can bet it’s happening to a lot of those incredibly confident-looking people around you too. Just knowing that can help in feeling less isolated.
  • Think about the positives. Mentally or literally accrue a list of all your professional achievements, compliments, accolades and testimonials. This will help you change the narrative and remind you of how far you have come, what you have achieved, and that you are, in fact, genuinely successful.
  • Evaluate what makes you unique. No matter what your role, there is something within your experience that is unique to you. Perhaps you are the only person to have set a particular department up from scratch, or you created a system that didn’t exist before. Or maybe you have brought experience from a different industry with you that gives you an edge. Whatever it is, find your uniqueness and recognize the strength in that.
  • Create a strong, supportive group of friends, co-workers and mentors. Focus on having people in your life who have your back and will help build you up rather than knock you down, but make sure they are straight shooters who will give you honest feedback when you need it. That way, you know you can trust their opinions and check in with them when you need a boost.
  • Use proven techniques that assist in changing internal dialogue. I like to use NLP techniques with my clients that help them to embody the successful person they already are and manifest that confidence, along with other methodologies.

If you feel like you experience the signs of impostor syndrome, try running through the points above and see how they can change the way you view yourself and your success in the work place. You never know, you might just send that impostor packing once and for all!