Imposter Syndrome – Give that demon a name and then kick it out

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Tgis article was originally written by Lizzie Hollis on CharityConect

I was out to dinner with friends some months ago when one of them started talking about an amazing promotion she had got with a really good pay rise. This particularl friend is a total grafter; she will always goes the extra mile and is dedicated and intelligent. Yet she felt she didn’t deserve the opportunity she’d worked for.

This was the first time I had heard of Imposter Syndrome and my friend had identified herself as having it. She talked about the feelings of incompetence and not being good enough that are associated with the syndrome and of pulling the wool over her employer’s eyes into thinking she was good enough for the job.  I immediately thought “bloody hell, I’ve been there”, although I didn’t acknowledge it at the time.

It wasn’t until I started reading Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett (a must read, btw) I realised that it wasn’t just my friend or me who have been battling with this horrible brain critter; so many people have those feelings of not being good enough and unsurprisingly, the majority of people dealing with such thoughts are women.

So what is Imposter Syndrome?

Coined in 1978, Imposter Syndrome refers to high-achieving individuals who struggle to internalise their accomplishments and carry a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite external evidence of their competence. Most who exhibit the syndrome believe that they do not deserve their successes, dismissing them as luck, good timing or deception.

I wonder how many of you reading this have just had the same “bloody hell” moment that I did when I first heard this.

I also wonder how many of you have dismissed the possibility of being able to exhibit signs of Imposter Syndrome because you saw the words ‘high-achieving’ and immediately removed yourself from that category.

My assumption is quite a few of you, as an estimated 70% of the population have suffered from it, especially if you’re a woman, or from an ethnic minority group.

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How to tackle imposter syndrome – Give it a name

As a kid, when I was misbehaving or being generally foul my mum used to call me ‘Esmeralda’ and would say things like “stop grizzling, Esmeralda”. When I started thinking about Imposter Syndrome, I decide the best way to tackle it would be to make it an alter-ego. Humanising it meant that I could speak to it woman to woman, I could take those thoughts saying I wasn’t good enough and say ‘No, you don’t get to make me feel this way’ and throw it out of my head. Now, if I feel those thoughts popping into my head I can be the one in control and tell Esmeralda that she’s barred!

As someone who recognises that women have a more difficult time in the work place than men anyway, having a voice in my head telling me that everything good I did was a lie and would soon be found out was not going to help my chances of reaching a senior position in my career. Giving it a name made it feel real to me and therefore meant I had to acknowledge its existence as something having a genuine and negative impact on my ability to believe in myself.

How to tackle imposter syndrome – Affirm yourself

It can be really hard to give yourself the big high five you deserve, for fear of coming across as cocky or immodest. But the truth is, you have to reflect on the all awesome things you’ve done and give yourself the credit you deserve, otherwise you’ll let Esmeralda win. By affirming yourself you gain confidence and self-esteem and take genuine delight in all the great things you’ve achieved, rather than thinking that you’ve somehow fooled everyone into believing you’ve done a good job.

I appreciate this can be hard. Whenever my manager says she wants to speak to me, my immediate reaction is to wonder what I’ve done wrong. When I couldn’t get in touch with my mentor after a speaking opportunity my immediate reaction was to think I had done a terrible a job of my presentation and he wanted nothing else to do with me, regardless of the fact that the truth was to the contrary. I am terrible at taking work related compliments and often remain stony faced to praise. Even yesterday I said this: “I’m knackered, today required a lot of brain power and you know I don’t have a lot of that at the best of times”. It is not okay for us to be belittling ourselves in this way!

By taking time to affirm and reflect on all the brilliant things you’ve done, you can let the positive voices in your head be the prevailing ones. Even when things do go wrong (and they will, but that’s okay) you can accept it as part of the learning and growing experience rather than a sign of your overarching incompetency. And if you struggle affirming for yourself, get someone else to do it for you, until you can for yourself.

Let me help you get started, repeat after me “I am brilliant, successful and valuable to my organisation. Everything I have done in my career has not been down to luck, timing or deception, but hard work, motivation and determination”

Say it!

Now – go forth and prosper, you awesome person!

About Emma Begg

Product and Marketing Manager at CharityConnect. Love learning about new technology and helping to create a culture of collaboration over at www.charityconnect.co.uk

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Related article

CharityConnect: the place to meet others making a difference

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With so many diverse and niche roles in the charity sector, conventional career advice isn’t always enough. Sometimes, what you really need is to connect with people who have been there before.

But the question is how do we get in touch with these people?

That’s where CharityConnect comes in! CharityConnect is the professional online community for the charity sector, helping to create a culture of collaboration. It is a central hub for all the information you need, helping you connect with people across the entire sector. Interested? Here are some simple methods that you can use to take advantage of CharityConnect, engage, learn, thrive and meet others who are making a difference.

Ask questions & find answers

There will come a time when you have a burning career question that needs to be answered. And what better way to learn than from other professionals who have overcome the same issues you’re currently tackling? On CharityConnect, you’re actively encouraged to participate in discussions, write posts that reflect your personal experiences and meet new people who have shared your struggles. The aim is to offer you valuable, relevant, advice to help you go above and beyond what is expected from you at work. Community and collaboration are at the heart of CharityConnect and we want you to discover those hidden gems within the sector. Because ultimately, we can do better together.

In short: Connecting with people means more than just ‘following’ them on social media. It’s about actively starting conversations, offering help when you can and creating a culture whereby sharing our experiences is second nature. Now you can start asking those all important questions on CharityConnect.

Interact with your peers

As obvious as it may sound, you should never forget that your colleagues are one of your greatest assets. As well as giving you an insight into their previous role, they will also be aware of the mission statement that you’re working towards and provide you with meaningful advice. CharityConnect allows you build new relationships and tap into your established community of charity professionals. Even when you’re trying to extend your network, don’t forget how valuable your colleagues are.

In short: The worst thing you can do is just follow someone and interact with them once. CharityConnect makes keeping in touch with people simple and easy. So start a simple discussion or ask someone for their advice because, when maintaining relationships, interaction is everything.

 

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Look for a mentor and get on their radar

We all have someone in our field that we admire. You follow their work, you can see that they are genuinely contributing to the industry and now you want to learn from them personally. While you’ll be able to interact, start discussions and follow professionals on CharityConnect, it’s not as simple asking for their advice. It’s important to make yourself appealing so they believe they’re investing time in someone who wants to progress in the sector. Stand out from the crowd by being proactive and starting conversations in CharityConnect groups. We created groups so that you can have specific and targeted discussions. This draws the attention of people who are particularly skilled in that area (or need advice) so that you can begin building relationships with the right people. You’ll be able to hear all of the latest industry news and offer your unique perspective.

In short: Don’t just expect a mentor to say yes because you’re interested in their work. Prove to them that you have something to offer by being a constant and active member of the industry community.

Discover industry influencers

With so many changes happening in the sector every year, it’s so important to be kept up-to-date. By keeping up with the most influential people, you will have a much better idea of the direction that your particular area is heading in, the road bumps to look out for and productive ways to manage the most difficult situations. With this, you’ll benefit from the experience of those who have not just been through it, but triumphed. So be especially vigilant when you’re online!

In short: Keep an eye on influencers and stay in tune with what’s happening in the sector. Their experience is priceless, easy to find and instrumental in your career!

Speaking to people directly and starting a sincere conversation can be just as, if not more, beneficial as any video you watch or book that you read. CharityConnect is here to open the door that, otherwise, might be closed. We want to ensure that everyone has access to the information that they need to have a budding career. And a huge part of that is learning from others who have been there before.

So, if you’re looking for a way to connect with other charity professionals, learn and create a future of collaboration, CharityConnect is the place for you. Register your interest today to start building a better connected and informed sector.

About Emma Begg

Product and Marketing Manager at CharityConnect. Love learning about new technology and helping to create a culture of collaboration over at www.charityconnect.co.uk

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