I do believe Impostor Syndrome is on the surface of many struggles of men and women, not only leaders. What is it? Why does it affect more women than men? What can be done about it?
My name is Anna and I am a psychologist and a RTT practitioner, I have worked and trained hundreds of people in areas such as professional development, gender equality and intercultural competences and my goal and mission on this planet is to make it a better place by supporting women leaders in accessing and using their authentic voice, purposes and powers. Why do I do that? Because I believe the world will be a much better place if all people, men and women had a more equal say about what it looks like.
And one thing I discovered over the years was that there is something that prevents people from reaching for what they want and lead in a way that leads to results they want. And that thing, my friends, is the Impostor Syndrome!
Impostor Syndrom is on the surface, it’s the external manifestation of not feeling good enough as a person. As you. It’s what shows on the outside, because deep down inside you don’t believe you’re ENOUGH.
Good enough to become who you want to become. Trained enough to provide the service you want to provide. Talented enough to write that book you always wanted to write. Organized enough to push through with your plan to conquer the world. Beautiful enough to find the perfect soulmate…. This can go on and on and on. Sounds familiar? Please let me know yes or no!
So how does it manifest? What are the symptoms of the impostor syndrome?
- Not speaking out when you know what to do, you know the answer, you know how to solve a problem, but… you choose to stay silent, because „who will listen to me”. And „what do I know”. This is one of the reasons why so many issues are still labeled (yes, still! Even though it’s 2021, people!) as “women’s issues” and therefore they’re not as important as the “general issues”
- Not asking for that raise, for that promotion, not taking the lead when you know deep down inside you could do it and you could do it well, because „other people deserve better”.
- Not pursuing this dream of yours (sometimes even forgetting you ever had one), because „what if I fail”?
It is this constant feeling that you have that you’re a fraud and one day they will all realise it. That everyone else has more talent. More skills. More experience. Works harder. Is smarter…. and again, we can go on and on and on.
The mind with impostor syndrome will do everything it can to PREVENT US from showing up.
- I will not do it until I’m qualified – I need more certification, more diplomas, more references, more testimonials
- I will not do it until it’s perfect – it needs to be bulletproof! Well unless it’s a protective vest, it doesn’t!
- I will not do it unless…. / until…..
I used to always think that ONE DAY I will know I am ready. One day I will be smart enough, experienced enough, brave enough and strong enough to start what I always wanted to do, which was having my own business and working with amazing women who change the world for the better – yes, it’s you I am talking about! 🙂
Well guess what, this is utter and ultimate BULLSHIT 😀 There’s no day when you just know you’re ready! There’s no diploma that will give you more confidence and courage to start a new thing. And there’s no day when you become perfect all of a sudden. (well, my position on it is that you already are perfect, but I know that people argue with it just a bit at the beginning).
One of my mentor once said, and I remembered it very well: “Be scared and do it anyways” 😀 So…. even though I know I’m not perfect talking to you right now, and even though I am scared, I am doing it anyway. With all the imperfection, I am talking to you about something that I am passionate about because I do believe that it’s an important topic.
So… how else can Impostor Syndrome manifest?
There are 5 typical types of impostors, but that doesn’t mean you can only have one of these. You can have 3 or 2 or just 1 and it’s equally annoying.
What are they?
- Perfectionism: everything has to be perfect or its rubbish. I will not post anything online until it’s absolutely perfect. I will not hand in this report until it’s flawless. I will not start my project until there’s not a single thing wrong with it.
This is how NOTHING gets done. Or it gets done but at a cost of our peace, our time, our effort, our struggle and in the end we don’t even enjoy the results. Or worse – if what we do, that’s obviously not perfect, gets acknowledged, we are afraid that we don’t deserve the recognition. It’s not perfect so we don’t deserve any reward for our effort. It’s not perfect so we shouldn’t do anything.
- Super woman: we need to have EVERYTHING under control and we ALWAYS need to save the world. Super woman has no time to rest, is busy all the time and there’s no way she’s ever going to say NO to anyone. To anything. At the expense of her health. At the expense of her relationships. At the expense of anything that’s important. Because EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is always more important than she is.
- The natural genius: if it doesn’t come easily, then I should be doing it. I need to understand everything instantaneously. If I am not talented in something (which I have no idea if I am because I never tried), I don’t even start. It was like this for me when it came to starting my own business. I felt like I couldn’t do it because other people are just born business people and I am not. So there’s no way I can learn that skill and therefore no. Impossible.
- The Soloist: I have to do everything myself. If I don’t do things myself, then there’s something wrong with me. I have to handle everything on my own – my career, my business, my home, my family, my children. If I ask for help – that means I am an imposter. A fraud. Not a real mom. Not a real therapist. Not a real leader. And the truth is, honey, no-one can do everything themselves. There’s just too much to do, to know, to remember. Trying to do and figure out everything on our own is a road to disaster!
- The expert: this is so common and I am certain, so familiar. If I don’t have 15 diplomas, 70 certificates and 100 recommendations, I cannot do it. Every skill of mine has to be validated by some kind of external, very important body. Me thinking I can do something is not enough. Me willing to do something is not enough. Me being open to learn trial and error is a stupid idea. Nothing can be done until I am an established expert.
So, now…. why do women have it more difficult than men when it comes to impostor syndrome? Is it a gender thing? Is it a biological thing?
Well women are judged much more than men and women are told they are not fit to do many more things than men. From the moment they’re young girls they have to be smart but not too smart. They have to be pretty and look beautiful, but only in a certain way, because otherwise it’s provocative. They have to be ambitious but not bossy. We are judged for what we say, how we say it, what we look like when we say it. We are even judged when are partners or our children misbehave! Learning to navigate in such complex and conflicting circumstances is extremely difficult and many of us loose our natural ability to JUST BE OURSELVES. And when we’re not ourselves, when we pretend to fit in, we feel like a fraud. And feeling like a fraud is THE MOST OBVIOUS sign of the impostor syndrome.
How do we crush it?
Understanding is power!
Learn to see the behaviours, learn to see the patterns and learn to distinguish them from reality. Is it really me or the impostor syndrome talking?
It took me a lot of time but most importantly a lot of subconscious work to finally figure it out. To be able to step out of the comfort zone. And even today, I still see my IS creeping in. I’ve had it since this morning, knowing I’m going to show up here!
And if this resonates with you and you’d like to strut into rooms that you sometimes feel you don’t belong in like the LEADER you are, become more confident and truly step into your power then comment leader below or send me an email and I’ll get in touch with you so we can have a chat about your goals and vision for yourself.
Sending lots of love!