Have you ever doubted your achievements, putting them down to luck, timing or the efforts of other people, rather than believing they are really due to your own skills, abilities and effort?
You may be aware that in its most persistent form this is called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ – this is when we find it hard to internalise our own accomplishments and have an ongoing fear of being considered a ‘fraud’ or imposter.
These feelings are rarely to do with actual ability or credibility and are usually associated with feelings of perfectionism, overworking, and a fear of failure; as a result, praise is discounted and one’s own achievements undermined.
I have a personal history of doubting my abilities and in the past, have spent years covering this up rather than helping myself to change my ‘crooked thinking’. I believed I had managed this pretty well until one day, when I was in a very senior position, someone accused me of a serious irregularity in my work. Although the allegation was untrue and I was cleared of any wrongdoing, the impact on my mental health was devastating.
Initially when the accusation was made I was unable to manage the terror that somehow, I would be found out, that everything I had ever done in the pursuit of serving others would be exposed as untrue too. All those years of telling myself that I was an imposter and that I wasn’t worthy of my achievements left me ill-equipped to deal with this difficult situation. I believe now, on reflection, that my extreme reaction to the scenario was triggered in part by an underlying fear of lacking confidence in my own ability and skills.
The impact of this situation led me to set up The Wellbeing Collective and to forge a different path for myself and my family. Four years on and I have learned some very big lessons:
- I am not an imposter; its ok to have self-doubts and to act with humility as long as it doesn’t paralyse me. Reflecting on situations individually or with people I trust helps me grow in self-awareness.
- ‘Feelings are not facts’. A shift from thinking that my achievements are down to other people or plain luck …to … believing that I do achieve things through my own abilities and I often do this with others and by making the best of opportunities.
- By noticing and celebrating the achievements of others I have found it easier to acknowledge that I achieve things worthy of recognition as well. Recognising my achievements is still a work in progress.
- By being open about significant experiences and the impact it has had on my life I have discovered that many of us have inner feelings or thoughts associated with Imposter Syndrome. Through conversations with people I have realised that not being alone in these self-limiting beliefs is liberating.
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