Today, we’re going to be talking about how managing the imposter in the room can help you on the road to a winning mindset.

Because business is all about getting your mindset in the right place. It’s about understanding what goes on in your mind. Because what you understand, you can do something about. It’s what you don’t understand that has the power to control you rather than you controlling it. 

Which brings me to Imposter Syndrome. 

What is imposter syndrome? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? 

Imposter Syndrome – the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. – Oxford Languages

What causes imposter syndrome? 

Well, it is likely a result of multiple factors.

One factor is often family background. Where a family values achievement and excelling is expected, family members begin to define themselves according to how successful they are deemed to be. This constant need to achieve creates fertile ground for imposter syndrome to flourish.

Other factors include personality traits (perfectionism, for example, can feed fraudulent feelings), cultural expectations and constant comparison to other people’s perceived successes. 

Whatever the cause, it is important to recognise that it is not a disease but rather a pattern of thinking and, as such, can be changed. 

How do you know if you suffer from imposter syndrome? 

Have you ever come across these sorts of things going on in your head?

  • my friends are only still here because they pity me
  • what if I’m just faking being a good person and everybody is falling for it
  • if you all really knew me, I don’t think you’d like me very much

Just think about it. Have you ever told yourself, ‘they only love me because they haven’t realised I’m bad,’? Or failed to celebrate a success because you looked at it as just potluck, not thanks to your hard work and intelligence? 

That’s impostor syndrome! 

And it is all these really negative thoughts and feelings that hold you back from achieving what it is you want to achieve. 

managing your imposter syndrome

5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome can manifest in one (or more) of 5 ways:

The Perfectionist – the perfectionist strives to be their absolute best, no matter the cost to their own wellbeing. These individuals are constantly trying to get everything to be absolutely without fault. They set themselves impossibly high standards and, as you can imagine if you set such high standards, it’s unlikely you will ever fully achieve them

Natural genius – these people combine perfectionism with trying to achieve too much, too quickly. They expect to be able to do just about any task they set themselves on the first try. Consequently, they feel unworthy and disgraced if they cannot easily complete a task, refusing to acknowledge how unrealistic that goal may have been in the first place. 

The soloist – the soloist founds it extremely difficult to ask others for assistance. They tend to think that others are not as competent as they are and, consequently, there is no value in asking for their help. It may be that they believe that their skills are better than anybody else’s or that they must validate their own worth through high levels of productivity.  

Superwoman/Superman – I’m sure there are quite a few people out there who will relate to this one. These are people that often struggle with work addiction. They feel inadequate, so, therefore, they think that they’ve got to work harder than anybody else to prove themselves, and they just keep on going. They work as hard as they can, no matter what the consequences are, which can often be physical and mental burnout or even emotional. Like a hamster on a wheel, they keep running and running regardless of the results and are generally left feeling like they haven’t achieved much by the end of the day.

The expert – despite being very knowledgeable, the expert never feels good enough. They worry needlessly that they are less experienced than their peers even though they may be the exact opposite. In a situation where they may not know the answer to a question or how to resolve a problem, their sense of inadequacy is heightened. 

Simple ways of managing the imposter in you 

Imposter syndrome isn’t always there. It can come and go, and the negative effect on your mindset will also vary. But it is useful, though, to understand when the imposter in you feels most vulnerable so you can manage it more proactively. 

Acknowledge the imposter in the room – be open with people and acknowledge the problem. It’s easy to feel shameful, but if you talk about it more, you are sure to find other people with similar feelings of inadequacy. Knowing you are not alone will allow you to look at your feelings from a more objective viewpoint and more logically cope with them. 

Rely on fact not fiction – separate the feelings from the facts and consciously manage that emotional, almost primal part of your brain. If you can do this, you can then concentrate on the logic behind your reaction when you feel in a vulnerable position. One foolish moment doesn’t make you a court jester. It’s natural to sometimes feel out of your depth, even if you are highly intelligent. 

Stop playing the comparison game – everyone has a unique set of talents. They also have their individual concepts of what success means to them. Benchmarking yourself against their achievements, which may not even align with your own idea of what success looks like, can leave you feeling like a loser and anxious about not measuring up. 

Practice self-praise – once you stop playing the comparison game, it becomes easier for you to take a step back and recognise your own accomplishments. Congratulate yourself on your achievements, no matter how big or small those may be. And praise yourself when you do something that you feel good about, that empowers you. 

Focus on the positives – the good news is the stuff you need to focus on. Even a perfectionist should occasionally sit back and accept that 80 – 90% will deliver the desired result and is, therefore, a positive conclusion of the task. Don’t focus on the missing 10% that wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. In the words of the old song by Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

View failure as a healthy part of progress – work at developing a healthy response to failure and mistake making. Yes, you are going to fail at some point. It is impossible to be a high performer 100% of the time. Some of the most successful people in this world have failed more times than they have succeeded. Remember, as a child, how many times you fell over before you could learn to walk. How many times did you have to fail before you could learn to walk? It is exactly the same. Accept mistakes will happen. The growth mindset response is to take the learning from the mistakes instead of beating yourself up for falling short. 

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what imposter syndrome is now and how it can stand right in the road of a winning mindset. The better you understand this, and implement these simple strategies to deal with it, the more you will win and the more successful you will become.