Becoming fearless: Facing imposter syndrome

Never be limited by feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy again! Janel Briggs teaches you how to kick imposter syndrome

Is your best work, or your next career move being robbed by fear and self-doubt? Have you ever felt like you aren’t capable, or haven’t earned the right to be in the position you are in? Do you worry about whether you are good enough?

According to a recent study conducted by The Hub Spot (May 2022) you are not alone.

Approximately 85% of employees feel incompetent and battle feelings of “imposter syndrome”, despite having 3 years’ experience in their field.

Imposter syndrome refers to that intense feeling of fraudulence you get when you doubt your abilities, accomplishments, or skills. You feel as though you’re on borrowed time, waiting for the moment someone realises you shouldn’t be there, and you’re going to be found out.

The study revealed that 80% of men, and 90% of women in the workplace admitted to feeling this way, though only 25% of employees are aware of it. Perhaps this is due to the myth that imposter syndrome is a mental health condition, or that confident people don’t experience it and it only affects women.

But this is all false! Even the highest of achievers and most confident people can feel this way. It all comes down to our internalised fears and core self-belief system.

But why has this phenomenon increased so rapidly? Previous studies placed Imposter Syndrome at around 70%. Since that data was released, we’ve spent over 2 years surviving a pandemic, isolating, and pivoting to work from home environments. During that time, increasing numbers of employees experienced burnout, overwhelm, job uncertainty and high levels of anxiety for the first time. It may be that the rise is linked to this, or a lack of connection to the workplace.

Here’s why: with fewer opportunities to receive face-to-face feedback, read body language cues, and have open conversations to discuss challenges outside the zoom room, the mind has a field day! It goes into overdrive analysing, overthinking, and rehashing every conversation and scenario of the workday: “Did I do enough? Was it good enough? What if I wasn’t on point? What will they think of me? Why was I not invited to that meeting? What if I don’t have the capabilities anymore? Will I lose my job?”

The mind is a powerful tool, but in some cases self-doubt and fear breed without external validation and connection. The good news however is that imposter syndrome is not incurable; you can learn to shift your mindset when flooded with fear-based thoughts.

4 Steps to becoming fearless when facing imposter syndrome

  1. Recognise when the feelings arise, awareness always proceeds change.
  2. Identify the specific fear or doubt you are feeling. 
    • “What specifically am I afraid of here?” or
    • “What is causing me to feel this way?”
  3. Review the facts (feelings are not facts)
    • “When did I decide that I am not capable of (X)” or
    • “Where is the proof this person thinks that about me?”
  4. Reframe the thought process, using the power of positive language.
    • I am capable of producing great outcomes
    • I have the skill and attributes to succeed in this role
    • I am experienced and worthy of my success
    • I belong here I am accepted for my talents
    • My work is valued and I deserve this praise
    • I am good enough

It can be very unsettling to discover that you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. Given the stigma around this topic, many people might feel like they just have to push through and suffer in silence. You don’t, and the real story is in how you face this fear to rebuild your self-belief. Connection and opening conversations at work are also key. You might even be surprised when you share your experience and people understand exactly what you are going through.

Janel Briggs is a speaker for the Faculty’s BRAVO Women in Procurement program – register now for BRAVO – THE EVENT

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