Imposter Syndrome can strike at any time, imagine, you are starting a new role. You want to prove to everyone that you deserve it although you fear if you make the smallest mistake, they are going to realise you are not as good as they hoped. You believe you need to achieve everything to an almost perfect standard. It would be best if you could deliver everything yourself, you also don’t fully trust your team yet and you don’t want to ask for help. You are aware that being a parent means you need to stop working at a certain time and focus on your family. You compare yourself to colleagues without kids or with much older kids. You are becoming overwhelmed as you work and think constantly. You are aware that you can’t accomplish everything at home or at work and you are frustrated.

If that description sounds familiar, you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. According to Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes: Imposter syndrome is the condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being a high achiever in external, objective ways. This condition often results in people feeling like “a fraud” or “a phony” and doubting their abilities.

I have worked with clients on this topic, and I would like to share a few insights that can support you. In the beginning, I would like to set an expectation that managing Imposter Syndrome requires conscious effort, it is a process and if you use any of the suggestions below once or twice, it is not going to bring you great results.

Challenge your thoughts

If you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, you probably tend to fall into a few thinking traps.

  • Comparisions can sound like “all of my colleagues are so clear and confident in expressing their opinions, they have much stronger technical backgrounds, and they have everything at home and work under control”. Comparing yourself to others is never fair, as you are different people, with different backgrounds, different support systems etc. Also, we tend to compare someone’s outside to our inside. What are they really thinking about themselves?
  • Perfectionism tends to go together with black and white thinking or people pleasing. It might sound like: “If I don’t meet all deadlines, it means I fail. If I don’t make this presentation perfect, we are not going to close this deal. If I make a mistake in this proposal that I am preparing for my boss, he’s going to stop trusting me and our relationship will suffer”. Is that true? How likely is it really to happen? Which matters require the highest standard of your work and which ones not necessarily?

I love Valerie Young’s approach, click HERE to watch her video, in it she shares that the only difference between people with Imposter Syndrome and those without is they how they think. Therefore, next time when you feel your Imposter Syndrome is taking over the situation, ask yourself, what would someone without it think? It helps if you can have a role model in mind.  I also wanted to share this article from Better Up, they share some more insight on Imposter Syndrome and how to avoid it, click HERE to read on.

I would like to encourage you to challenge your thoughts regularly, reflect on difficult situations, journal and make it re-frame your thoughts often.

Own your accomplishments

One of the most challenging aspects of Imposter Syndrome is that you may struggle with owning your success: talking about it without minimising its value and feeling it internally. What would help you notice your talents and accomplishments?

Visual representations can be a first step. You can try a few options like: updating your CV, making a list of your biggest accomplishments so far and thinking of an impact you had on people and business, looking at your education and professional development certificates. Collecting positive feedback from your previous and current clients, business partners, colleagues or managers and keeping it handy can offer a little boost of optimism when you are doubting yourself.

Whichever option from the above you choose, challenge yourself to read them out loud and let them sink in. Just pause and be in the moment. Notice your feelings.  Consider your personal life achievements too. For example, buying a house, moving to a different country, learning a new language or playing an instrument, competing at sports or supporting your kids’ development.

Set realistic goals

Being a leader, managing a team, parenting and fulfilling all other roles you have is HARD. You can probably feel that at least one part of your life is suffering. I’m going to share a very unpopular opinion now. You simply can’t work as if you don’t have kids and parent as if you don’t have a job. And by writing this, I don’t want you to think that you can’t be successful at both. You just need to be very precise and careful at defining what the success looks like. It requires managing expectations – your own and others. Potentially negotiating and saying no.  Again, it is not about giving up your ambition, it is more about creating momentum, a good feeling that you are making progress and that you are accomplishing mini-goals. These feelings can support positive thinking, instead of constantly beating yourself up and thinking about tasks that you haven’t accomplished yet.

Please set mini daily and weekly goals and reflect on your efforts and progress. For example, if you are starting to manage a bigger team, you would like to have 1:1s with all your direct reports in the next two weeks. Is that realistic and necessary in the context you are in (with all the other meetings you need to attend and a minor cold you picked up from your younger child)? Or it’s the weekend and you would like to exercise, have a fun and spend time with the kids, prepare some healthy meals and rest a little bit as you have a demanding work week ahead of you. What would your success look like here – can you combine some activities or take a shortcut?

Support

By mentioning support, I mean it in a very broad way. Although you may feel pressure to do everything yourself, the reality is that this is not sustainable. I would love to encourage you to write down a list of people who could support you in any of the ways mentioned below:

Delegating – you may think that you need to do everything yourself to a perfect standard, especially if one of your direct reports didn’t deliver a task for you on time or the way you wanted. Delegating and trusting someone is a process. If you can’t rely on someone fully, can they prepare something for you at least partially? Or prepare it and then run through it with you? Or have check-in points at key stages of the task? Delegating is also important at home, think about all different responsibilities that can be shared or delegated: shopping, cleaning, organising, picking up and dropping off, cooking etc.

Mentoring and allies – would you benefit from having a mentor at work? Someone who can advise you on what is worth focusing on, and how to navigate certain challenges and stakeholders? Or maybe how to work to still preserve your work-life balance?  Consider how can you build your allies and work circle of support.

Support outside of work – yes, you are a parent of your child, and this is a lifelong responsibility. It is like a marathon, not a sprint and you can’t rely only on yourself. It causes extra stress and anxiety. Who can support you with your child (except for your partner of course)? Normally, people think about grandparents, aunts and uncles. However, when you are an expat like me, that’s not an option. You may think about a friend, a neighbour, another mum or dad from nursery or school, or maybe a nanny.

Giving yourself the support you need – how would you need to support yourself to have enough energy to manage your thoughts and responsibilities? Anything about your sleep, diet, breathing, walking, stretching, hugging, stress release techniques and treating yourself as a friend that you can give yourself more of?

If you need support in managing Imposter Syndrome, executive coaching can make a difference. Please get in touch to book a free discovery meeting and let’s discuss how we can work together.

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