Before we talk about overcoming Imposter Syndrome, let's first address what it actually is. Do any of these statements resonate?
If so, you could be experiencing imposter syndrome. Don’t worry though, you're not broken, you're not strange, and you're definitely not in the minority. According to a report by Access Commercial Finance, 62% of people at work are affected by imposter syndrome. The survey of over 3000 adults in the UK shows over two-thirds of women (66%) have suffered from imposter syndrome, compared to over half of men (56%) within the last 12 months. Other studies suggest the figure could be more like 70%.
Imposter syndrome presents itself in many different ways. Here are some examples:
So, the big question is how to overcome imposter syndrome.
I'll let you into a secret….
….there's no magic trick….
….there's no quick win….
….but there are some techniques and tips you can practice.
And how do I know these work?
Because I experience imposter syndrome (note the present tense, not the past tense!), and when I hear those voices of self-doubt, I use these exact techniques to silence the voices.
It works, trust me!
Before I launch into the tips though, let me start with this:
"The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor."
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
It's easy to overlook the signs in our day-to-day lives. A good first step is to recognise the signs. Pay attention to the language you use when you talk about other people and also yourself.
2. Know you're not alone
Some of the most successful people in the world have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. Here's a very famous example:
"I have written eleven books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'"
- Author, Poet & Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou
And a great quotation on how to deal with it:
"The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.”
- Actress, Writer & Producer Tina Fey, from her book 'Bossypants'
3. Let go of your inner perfectionist
The key here is to strive for excellence when it matters most, but don't over-engineer or overdo routine tasks. Often, when you feel like a fraud, it's not because you’re comparing yourself to something (or someone!), tangible; you're comparing yourself to an impossible and unrealistic 'perfect' outcome you've defined for yourself, that you'd never define for someone else.
4. Accept you’ll make mistakes and even fail
Develop a healthy response to failure and making mistakes. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Embrace mistakes as a learning experience and consider what you might do differently next time.
5. Visualize success
Do what professional athletes do and spend time picturing yourself making a successful presentation, or calmly posing your question in a meeting. If you picture positivity, it comes more naturally, rather than focusing on impending doom!
6. Break the silence - it’s good to talk!
It's true what they say, it's good to talk, especially when you're struggling. People can feel shame from expressing their fears and showing their vulnerabilities, but they shouldn’t. Sharing your thoughts and experiences will make you better equipped to deal with your imposter syndrome.
Family and friends are great, but for something like imposter syndrome, their natural need to care for you emotionally can end up unintentionally fuelling your fear. Instead, it’s ideal to talk with someone who can be more impartial.
You may choose to talk to your Manager or a work colleague. Some may find this uncomfortable as they are fearful of being so open and honest about something they see as a flaw. It can very much depend on the relationship you have with your manager or colleagues.
This is where a Mentor can be the ideal source. A Mentor can help you to talk more candidly about your struggles in a safe, confidential environment, without judgement. The best Mentor will share the struggles and mistakes they've made in their own careers, and you will find they have helpful stories and advice about how to overcome the specific feelings you are having. As well as supporting you to manage your imposter syndrome, a good Mentor will also equip you with techniques for communicating with your Manager in a positive and productive way.
7. Embrace the feeling, and use it
It's really hard to get rid of imposter syndrome completely, especially if you've experienced it for a long time. You need to learn new habits that, after a while, will become second nature. You may never get rid of it completely; the trick is to not let it stop you from hindering your success.
8. Reward yourself
Break the cycle of continually seeking, but then dismissing, validation by learning to pat yourself on the back. When you get a compliment, accept it graciously. When you have a positive meeting, smile and be energised for the rest of the day.
9. Separate feelings from fact
There are times you’ll feel inferior. It happens to everyone at some point. Understand that just because you feel inferior, it doesn’t mean you are. Look at a situation factually and objectively, not emotionally.
These are just a few of the techniques that I use myself and encourage my clients to use. To find out more, or discuss any of these further, please feel free to get in touch. I offer a free discovery session for this exact purpose:
And as an additional offer, get in touch using the same link above if you would like a free worksheet on overcoming imposter syndrome, called "Adventure to Awesomeness".
And before I go, here's some trivia for you about the spelling of the word imposter; or should that be impostor?!
Did you know that both spellings of imposter/impostor are correct and used interchangeably between the UK and the USA (where there are often differences in the spelling of words; colour/color, tyre/tire etc). I came across this interesting article that explains it further;
I'm a fan of "imposter" (not sure why!).
Good luck with the tips and let me know how you get on!
After following the Akeno Adventure social media posts for a while, I eventually got around to booking a free discovery session with Kerry.
My head was in a bit of a pickle in terms of what to do with my career. My main focus has always been on raising my two boys, and I have always done jobs that fit around them in terms of school and child care.
At the time of speaking to Kerry I was working in a temporary role doing admin work, which again, I took to fit around my family. Alongside this, I love photography, so I'd started up a small business doing photo shoots, but didn’t know what else to do with that either.
I was stuck on what to do next job-wise. My temporary role was coming to an end, so it felt like a good time to do something different, but I didn't know what, and I definitely didn't know how!
My discovery session with Kerry was incredibly helpful. I was able to gain clarity on my professional identity, and importantly, I was given some fantastic insights into how I could achieve my career dreams. I was even given a plan of what to do first, and how.
I put my plan into action and I am now working in the job of my dreams and my photography business is going from strength to strength.
Our conversation most definitely helped me and gave me the confidence I needed to believe my own answers and goals.
Kerry has an amazing way to make things seem calmer and more achievable, especially compared to what was going on in my head!
What is "discovery"?
According to the dictionary, "discovery" is the process of finding information, a place, or an object, especially for the first time.
So, what is an Akeno Adventure Discovery Session?
Rather than tell you what it is in theory, let me tell you a story of how it worked out for Moira…
Firstly, who is Moira?
Moira is a brilliant mum, a great partner and a fantastic friend. She is kind, selfless and considerate.
All great stuff, right?
Except there's one area that Moira was struggling with. Finding "Moira". Working out what her professional identity was, and how to succeed at building her own "dream career" whilst balancing all other aspects of life.
She followed the Akeno Adventure social media posts for a while, before "finally getting around to" (her words, not mine!), booking a free discovery session.
Moira was at a crossroads. She wanted to forge a career for herself now her children are getting older and more independent but didn’t know where to start. The whole idea of transforming her career scared her, and all she could consider is why it wouldn’t work. As well as a 'day job', she is also a photographer, and has recently started her own business doing photography sessions. She wasn't sure what to do with that either. Photography is her escape, so she knew she didn't want it to be her only work, but equally, how would she balance work, her business, and a family?
We talked about where she was at that point in time, where she wanted to be, and what the first steps might be to making that transition.
We talked through her fears, and I shared some practical insights and techniques to overcome them.
I could see her body language physically change as the call progressed. Fear turned into energy, and by the end of the session, she was excited about the next steps.
And that was it. Discovery session done.
Just a chat, and a sharing of advice and encouragement. Not a gimmick in sight!
It wasn't a sales pitch either, although of course, if someone asks about ongoing support packages, I do provide them, but in Moira's case, she had what she needed to start her own adventure.
A few months later, she popped me a note to say she had a job interview for her "dream job", but she was nervous. I replied with some tips and things to think about, and off she went into the interview.
SHE GOT THE JOB!
Her "dream job"! The one she never thought she'd get!
And she's developing her photography business further using the advice from our session. It's definitely a double win for Moira!
When I reached out to ask Moira about doing this blog, I asked her how I helped, and what difference our session made.
Here's what she said:
"Our conversation most definitely helped me and gave me the confidence I needed to believe my own answers and goals."
"You have an amazing way to make things seem calmer and more achievable, especially compared to what was going on in my head!"
So, a discovery session isn't scary.
It's not a magic fix either.
And it's definitely not one-size-fits-all.
For some, it's the first and only step they need to get them started on their own adventure.
For others, it's the start of our adventure together. They want or need the support, the challenge and the confidential space to develop and accelerate their plans.
So, can I guarantee that a discovery session will change your life?
Nope! And I'd never promise that as everyone's situation and journeys are different.
But, it did change Moira's life.
So, what are you waiting for? Book a free discovery session….
Spaces are limited though, so don't hang around; get booked in and start your first step on your career adventure.
To follow Moira's photography work, follow her on Instagram:
I was stuck in a job that was draining me. It got to a point where it started to impact my home life. I realised I was snapping at my wife, and I was bad-tempered all the time. I didn’t even have the energy to spend time with my children. It was time for a change…
I’d had a dream at school to be an Undertaker - yes, really! My Career Advisor at the time was less than useless, and said it was a silly idea. Instead, I ended up making neckties (on piece rate!), then managing stock in a factory; a far cry from my dream.
But I had no idea where to start, and the journey felt too long, and far too hard.
Kerry supported me, and championed my dream. We created a plan together, I updated my CV and LinkedIn profile with her input, identified my value proposition, and embarked on networking, having never networked in my life! Kerry was with me every step of the way. She lifted and motivated me when I felt low, and challenged me to do more when my momentum waned. She was my greatest supporter, and encouraged me to keep going.
And then I got an interview. Needless to say, Kerry was there for the preparation, and I entered the interviews and assessment process with a confidence I’ve never felt before.
The moment I got the call to say I got the job, was amazing! And the writing of my resignation for my current job was even better!
I would never have succeeded without Kerry’s support. I’d probably still be in the same job, and I probably wouldn’t still be married! I was getting fed up with myself at the peak of my unhappiness, my wife and family deserve a medal for putting up with me!
But we got through it, and I’m happy. WE’RE happy. Work really does impact on all facets of your life. I’m so glad I took the action when I did.
I had worked in a supermarket for nearly 30 years when I had a bright idea about becoming a self-employed dog groomer, but there was no way I could make such a change. I was too old, I didn’t know anything about self-employment, I probably wouldn’t get any customers, and anyway, the course I’d found to obtain my qualification was in Norwich, and I’d never travelled on my own and stayed away from home.
There were many more reasons why I couldn’t do it - at least that’s what I told myself - but I was desperately unhappy in my job, so I had to do something.
I turned to Kerry. She started by understanding where I was at the time, and where I wanted to be. She explored what I classed as “success” and “happiness”, which was an eye-opener for me.
We planned the first steps of the journey, and then came the action. She was with me every step of the way.
I attended the course and slowly started to build my dog grooming business around my work in the supermarket. I’d given myself a year or so to gently build it up. Less than 3 months in, I was handing my notice into the supermarket, and I was even turning new customers away, I was THAT busy!
That wasn’t the end of Kerry’s support though. I have continued to work with her, and she has continued to be my critical friend; challenging me and my business, and advising on improvements and better ways of working. Did you know that not all business is good business? I didn’t at the time, but I do now!
I’ve had a return on my investment with Kerry, literally 20+ times over (based on how much extra I’ve been able to earn as a result of her support). I’ve realised it’s not all about money though. I’m happier in my work, and I’m operating a business I’m proud of. I’m so pleased I took the leap.
(And yes, this is a picture of me lying on the floor whilst grooming a dog! It was his first visit and he was a little nervous, so this was all part of the process to make him feel comfortable).
I am the master of career reinvention, and it’s all Kerry’s fault!
When I met Kerry, I was a receptionist and a trained beauty therapist. I had dreams and aspirations, but no idea on how to get there!
The first transformation Kerry supported me with was my dream to run my own beauty training school. I had the qualifications to teach beauty, but the thought of setting up my own training school was scary. This is where Kerry came in! She guided and encouraged me, offering me motivation alongside practical advice on what to do along the way.
The beauty school was a success, but eventually, I felt a need to change again. I knew who to call on!
Kerry worked with me to draw out what I really wanted from my next career transition. The outcome was project management; very different to running a beauty school!
We agreed to a plan of action, and again, Kerry was with me every step of the way. I started in junior contracting roles, and with Kerry’s encouragement and practical guidance, became well known, and well respected, in very senior interim roles. In the end, the Corporate world called me, and I transitioned again into permanent employment.
I value having Kerry as part of my ongoing support network. She’s like a career PT; keeping me career fit, and on my toes! If I have any work-related concerns or challenges, I can share them with her in a safe and confidential space, and she’s there to guide me through it. Well worth the investment, and I work with her more than my actual PT!
During the global pandemic, I was furloughed. The time gave me an opportunity to reflect on my life, and my career. I realised it was time for a change again, but what next?
Kerry helped me to assess what I wanted from the next phase of my career, and has given me the confidence to re-enter the interim world. We are now working on the adventure together, one step at a time…
I got in touch with Kerry when I was feeling overwhelmed and overworked due to the continuous pressure of workload since the start of the pandemic. It was important for me to speak to someone who was empathetic and Kerry was just that. She listened, and gave me helpful tips on what small steps I could do to achieve a better work-life balance (especially when remote working).
On our introductory call, we discussed what I was going through, and where I wanted to get to. With Kerry’s help by the end of our sessions, I had a better work-life balance, more confident in my ability, and was able to not let small setbacks throw me off.
How do you usually spend your lunchtimes?
Do you sit down for a rest, perhaps catch up with a bit of daytime TV?
Or perhaps you pop out for a sandwich?
Maybe you’re able to get out for a quick walk to get some fresh air?
All perfectly good ways to spend a lunchtime, and I’m often found doing just this.
However, every now and then, I spend 30 minutes of my lunchtime, volunteering as a mentor to young people, supporting them on their career transformation dreams, on behalf of The Youth Group.
The Youth Group, led by the formidably brilliant Jack Parsons, has a mentor programme that connects business people, with young people who wish to develop their career confidences, skills and dreams, and I am honoured to be part of it.
The young man I mentored most recently, already has a brilliant foundation of career experience, but he is hoping to transform and expand into a new area. He asked me questions about my own business, and we explored insights and ideas on how he could embark on his own career adventure.
Another person I mentored is at the early stage in her career. She has a job, but it’s not her career of choice, and she was struggling to find opportunities in her chosen field. I advised her on how to build her network, and the power of asking exploratory questions, rather than just chasing jobs. She left our session with a plan of action and a new sense of motivation. We’ve stayed in touch, and she’s enjoying her new confidences. She’s building a network of great contacts, and I’m sure it won’t be long until she finds an opportunity that is perfect for her.
As well as being useful for the mentee, a voluntary mentoring programme like this is also a great way for the mentor to give back to a worthy cause, and I feel energised and proud to have been able to offer my support.
To find out more, contact The Youth Group direct, or let me know, and I'd be happy to connect you to my contact.