Imposter syndrome and the inner critique feed off one another. But by not showing up as our fullest self and being able to share all our skills, we stop helping the people who need it. This is when imposter syndrome holds back your career.
Recently I was a judge for We Are the City’s PA and EA awards category. I was so shocked when I was talking to the winners and not one of them felt completely comfortable sharing their achievement. They’d all had that moment of thinking this is a fluke, or saying ‘I don’t want to show off’ or even worse, thinking the judges had made a mistake.
Have you had this feeling? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that around 70% of us have recognised imposter syndrome. In this blog, we’re going to share how you can banish your imposter syndrome once and for all.
What type of imposter are you?
Imposter syndrome can show itself in several ways: self-doubt, a sense of incompetence, anxiety, burnout, an inability to accept praise or enjoy your accomplishments. Knowing when you’re experiencing signs of imposter syndrome will help you take control. For me it’s when I’m particularly stressed, or if I get an award. I’ll be embarrassed and wonder if they meant me.
However, not all of us experience imposter syndrome in the same way. That’s because there are 5 different imposter types out there. By identifying which you are, you can control the mindset far better. Take a look at this brilliant guide by Sarah Jane Lowry. In it, she shares more details on these types and importantly, the changes to make to combat them.
How do you cope with it?
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Okay?
Imposter syndrome often comes from perceiving someone else as more than us. Like that person you went to school with on Instagram. The one with the seemingly perfect job, life, kids, holidays, partner — who looks impossibly perfect after a 10k run.
When we do this we’re comparing people’s shiny outsides to our insides. This is what makes you feel small. The reality is we’re all challenged by these demons. But by labelling them and identifying them, we can unlock our power and take control of our thoughts. Remember thoughts are NOT facts. When I feel my imposter syndrome kicking in, this is the process I take:
Decide to do something exciting or scary > have a big wobble > talk myself off that ledge.
Talking yourself down isn’t always easy. Here are some things I tell myself that hopefully will help you.
- All of the worst days of your life you’ve got through. You’re here and you deserve to be.
- All the things you’ve tried have either gone your way or you’ve had huge learnings from them. You can’t grow if you don’t learn.
- How can anybody else do the things they want to if I don’t demonstrate I can take those leaps.
Taking that jump is like reaching out for a trapeze. You leap and for that brief moment, you are suspended in the air. There’s an empty space and darkness, but you will grab hold of the bars. If you don’t take that leap, you can’t get there.
The insights in this blog were originally shared at our weekly coaching webinar as part of the Coaching Club. Our fabulous network spent 45 minutes chatting more in-depth about this topic. We shared our experiences and more ideas or how to combat imposter syndrome. If you’d like to find out more about joining us, you can sign up here.
Homework (we’re an academy after all):
Start a smile file.
Record all your achievements, no matter how small. Every compliment, every comment, every time you help a client, every time you help someone. Record it all, so if imposter syndrome hits you have documented evidence to prove you can do it.
Ask for help!
As PAs and EAs you are exceptional at helping others, but you can be reluctant to ask others. Perhaps you’re worried you’ll be ‘found-out’ or people won’t think you’re as much of an expert as you deem you should be. Asking for help isn’t weak; it shows a willingness to grow.
That’s right, no more awkward responses or brushing it off. Just say thank you and mean it. Don’t downplay yourself.
Remember and repeat your new mantra:
I am a work in progress. Making mistakes gives an opportunity for growth.