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Are you faking it? Eight ways to defeat imposter syndrome

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
05 February 2022   |   2:08 am
Have you ever felt like you’re a fake? Or that you’ve got a table at the seat by fluke? As women, we often question or skills and the positions of influence those skills have got us.

Have you ever felt like you’re a fake? Or that you’ve got a table at the seat by fluke? As women, we often question or skills and the positions of influence those skills have got us. We second-guess our ability, we question our achievements, in the end we beat ourselves down. This is called the ‘imposter syndrome’ – a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological term that refers to a pattern of behaviour where individuals have doubts about their ability and constantly fear that they are a fraud. It causes self-doubt, dips in confidence, and has a negative impact on individual and group performance.

A large proportion of people experience imposter syndrome (research indicates that in 2019 across the world the figure was 72 to 92 per cent), and it is more often reported in underrepresented populations such as women and people of colour. After all, think of the number of colleagues you may have admired, or even looked up to, who may have at some point, admitted to feeling inadequate? I know I’ve met a few, and they are rarely men.

The causes are complex, deep-rooted, and representative of cultural and societal values that have a narrow definition of normal, are biased towards dominant groups, and show stereotypical views of ability. Those who experience imposter syndrome often feel less valued than their peers, a belief often reinforced by working practices, such as the gender pay gap which sends a message that men are valued more than woman. There is also a tendency for those experiencing ‘Imposter Syndrome’ to put their success down to luck or good timing rather than skill or hard work.

As women and underrepresented groups are more likely to be questioned regularly by others, they also tend to reflect these negative assumptions made about their abilities, which subsequently limits the roles they are given and lowers their confidence.

So, what can you do to defeat the imposter syndrome and gain back your confidence?
1) Acknowledge that imposter syndrome exists and is normal.

First step of tackling an issue is recognising there is one, so accept that imposter syndrome exists and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do.

Admit when you make errors- but deal with facts.Put your hand up and admit to it once you’ve made a mistake. Don’t let it define your worth; instead look for ways to come back from your mistake.

Identify and re-adjust when you are overly self-critical.In defeating the feelings you have, the first step is identifying them. Once you know you are being over critical you can readjust the course instead of letting those feelings define you.

Try to focus on what is within your control.We all find ourselves in situations where we have little control on circumstances or the outcome of our work; it is important to shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can so you are not overwhelmed with blind panic.

Keep a list of your achievements.In my first full-time job, a colleague advised that I made a feel-good folder of all the nice emails or cards I received so I can pick it up and browse through it whenever I feel ‘not up to the job’. This is good advice that’s stayed with me till today. Keep a list of your achievements, whether it’s a folder or notes on your phone.

Keep a list of your skills.The best way to remind yourself of your value is to keep in mind all the skills you bring to the table. Keep them up-to-date and do refer to them in moments of self-doubt to remind yourself of just how skilled you are.

Update your CV on a regular basis.Another way to keep skills updated is to update your CV on a regular basis and keep adding all the milestones you are proud of – not only will this exercise keep your CV fresh when you are looking for your next big gig, but it will also remind you of how capable and experienced you truly are.

Act and be confident.The old adage, “fake it till you make it” also applies to imposter syndrome. Even if under the surface you’re wrecked with self-doubt, act confident and you will feel your confidence grow. Above all, do not allow false statements to be made about your skills and achievements.