(Guest Blog) Do you get knocked back by self-doubt?
Let’s dig deeper – what are the ingredients of this ‘doubt’ that you are ‘doing’ to yourself?
Try these questions out for size:
Do you ever:
- Worry about how you are going to be judged – and pre-judge yourself?
- Put success down to fluke?
- Fear that one tiny mistake will be all that people notice?
- Feel everyone else has got what it together while you look in from the outside?
Would it help if there was a technical term to sum all this up?
Well the words won’t help as such – but it is good to know that these feelings are not unique to
you! When something has been through the process of rigorous research it tends to suggest
that it is real and worth investigating.
The research I refer to was done in the 1970’s by Clance & Imes – and the name they used for
these ways of thinking was ‘Impostor Phenomenon’ (and yes I did just use spell check).
Fortunately this ‘condition’ is now more commonly referred to as ‘Impostor Syndrome’ – easier to
say and spell, whilst not so technically accurate.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
It’s what I have right now as I scour my overflowing bookshelves for yet another reference for
this blog. It’s what I had an hour ago when I came across yet another person on google who
does something similar to me and seems to be having massive success and they look different
and talk different and have a good ‘ebook’ and ….. nobody will ever take me seriously.
It’s what I did at the last networking event I attended – looked around the table and associated
‘credibility’ to every person other than myself.
It’s spending 10 times as much time as needed to ‘perfect’ a presentation, piece of work,
business card, website…..
It’s completely ignoring every achievement and qualification you have already and considering
taking an open university degree to make sure people believe that you ‘know your stuff’.
It’s NOT GOOD! It can hold you back if you let it – and it’s exhausting.
Checklist of symptoms
- Putting success down to fluke
- Obsessing over your mistake – forgetting the good stuff
- Comparing yourself with others too much
- Turning down opportunity for fear of being ‘found out’ as a ‘fraud’
- Worrying way too much about what others think about you
- Over attention to ‘appearance’
- Embarrassed by ‘praise’
- Awkward about ‘selling yourself’ – in case they actually do ‘buy’ you!
- Disconcerting ‘alien’ feeling
Effects on your business
There is a concept in marketing known as AIDA – how to lead a person to buy basically:
That makes perfect sense for persuasive communication – I certainly explore this sequence
when coaching clients and indeed use this AIDA approach frequently in verbal and written
However – let’s chuck all the above ‘impostor syndrome’ ingredients into the mix – and do so
even before you start this sequence. How does this influence the ‘action’ part? You want to get
the ‘prospect’s’ attention, interest, desire – but there is a voice in your head saying : ‘I’m a fraud
and they will catch me out any minute’. You therefore ‘pull back’ at every stage. You underplay
the benefits of what you do and more than likely you fail to get them to take action.
A quick look at the above checklist of symptoms will allow you to imagine many more ‘negative’
consequences of Impostor Syndrome thinking – the very worst being ‘giving up’ and reverting to
comfort zones to hide away where nobody will question you – where nobody will notice you –
where no mistakes will be made. You might even spend all your energy seeking ‘validation’ from
others rather than getting on with the job and seeing the results which lead you to give yourself
Is there a cure?
Firstly – you have to want a cure. It is very possible to get into a love-hate relationship with the
Impostor Syndrome – and fighting it might feel like you are fighting your very identity – which
after all you are already a bit ‘wobbly’ about.
In the words of Diana Ross:
If there’s a cure for this
I don’t want it
I don’t want it
If there’s a remedy
I’ll run from it
So – having decided that you DO want a cure – the bad news is there isn’t one! Sorry.
However – having decided that you are up for doing something to change the thinking pattern –
there is a way forward. This way forward is simple to say and less simple to do. Don’t be too
hard on yourself while you are trying – keep at it and the patterns will start to change as our
brains have an amazing capacity for re-wiring connections.
The way to make this change?
You have already done step one. Remember – you are totally the boss of all this – it is only you
creating it in the first place.
- Get to know there is a name for it – it exists.
- Find out more – here and here will do for starters.
- Talk to others – you will be surprised just how much you are NOT alone
- When the thinking pattern starts – stop it quick! Positive mantra and even referring to a list of your achievements and qualifications.
- More ‘action’ and less ‘thinking’ can often help.
Final point to consider
The Impostor Syndrome is not confined to a group of people – it can be found in well over 70%
of the population – both genders, all ages, all backgrounds, all personalities ….. It is wildly
rampant amongst the highly skilled and outwardly confident – it lurks amongst academics and
Can you imagine winning 3 Oscar’s and still saying this:
‘You think, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act
anyway, so why am I doing this?”‘
These exact words were spoken by the actor Meryl Streep.
I frequently explore this topic in coaching sessions – and I am so pleased to have delivered talks
to students on this prevalent mindset barrier – the discussion needs to happen.
Trisha Lewis – Professional Communicator
Helping individuals and organisations remove the barriers to effective communication