Waiting for the talent police…. How to understand and conquer imposter syndrome

By Lorna Dunning – Professional Development coach

During a 20-year career in senior roles within global organisations, I’ve been fortunate to work with top performers and exceptional leaders. I made it a habit to observe and learn from others’ successes and mistakes.

Today I help individuals to take their career and life to the next level and to achieve this they often need to overcome all sorts of hurdles and for so many of my clients imposter syndrome is a key factor holding them back.

I remember a few years ago working late in the office on a dark winter evening and having the most honest conversations I’d ever had with a colleague.  Despite this being my second senior leadership role, I was confiding in her about how I sometimes wondered how I got this position and how I didn’t feel worthy or good enough.

 “You’re waiting for the talent police,” she said. I almost spat tea out as I doubled over laughing. 

It was a hilarious comment, but it perfectly describing the myriad of thoughts and emotions of what I now understand to be Imposter Syndrome.  Waiting for the talent police to walk into the meeting room, point in my direction and tell me I shouldn’t be in this job or to leave the company.  You’re busted for the fraud that you are.  You’re not smart enough or talented enough for this role.

I have since learned this was a ‘thing’ which, at some point almost everyone experiences, and I looked into what the syndrome was, why we experience it and how to beat it.

Here are some of the signs that you could be suffering from Imposter Syndrome:

1.     PerfectionismIf I am perfect, I won’t be found out.

2.     Inability to say noIf I say yes, when my more talented colleague says no, I will be more greatly appreciated.

3.     Over workingI’ll make up for my talent shortfall by working harder than everyone else. 

4.     Low confidenceThe less I speak up, the less chance I have of getting it wrong. 

5.     Self-sabotageI’ll be found out sooner or later, it will be less painful if I do it myself. 

6.     Under-performingWhat’s the point in giving it my all, I’ll never be good enough anyway.

7.     WorryThat presentation didn’t go well, I bet my boss thinks I’m useless. 

8.     Trying to please everyone – If everyone is happy with me, no one will want me to lose me. 

9.     Sensitive to feedback – If I’m not getting 100% positive feedback, this is proof that I am not good enough.

In my case, the bigger the role, the harder I thought I had to work to compensate for my lack of talent, intellect, leadership charisma, financial acumen etc. 

Why we experience Imposter Syndrome

We each have a self-Image, a mental blueprint about the type of person we believe we are and how far we think we can go.  If we get promoted beyond this belief, it creates a disconnect in our mind.  Mentally we’re a Junior Manager, physically we’re a Vice President. 

The initial 18 months of my first VP role created a lot of mental irritation. 

“Am I operating at the right level?”

“Did I sound like a VP during that presentation?”

If organisations did more to help their employees with Imposter-Syndrome they’d unlock better performances and results.  They’d release dormant talent from those not even on the potential radar and see the type of creativity that can only come when employees are relaxed, confident and able to express who they really are.

Thankfully, with good results and not getting ‘found out,’ I started to believe.  My mental self-image caught up and I felt confident and sure in my own skin.

These days I help people upgrade their self-image in advance of making a change, so that they land confidently and happily in any new role or transformed life experience.  When you do the work on your inner blueprint, you automatically attract better results into your life. 

A computer can only do what it is programmed to do and changing the self-image is like reprograming a computer.

This applies for anything new that you want to be, do, or have in your life.  When we get our self-image in harmony with the results we want, things change in favour of our desires.

Four steps to creating a powerful self-image (and beating imposter syndrome)

1.     Take your mind to a place in your imagination where you are already thriving in your role.  See yourself doing well and feeling great. 

2.     Make a written description of this person, how they think, how they feel and how they behave.  (This applies to a role at work, a business outcome, or any personal goal that feels beyond your reach currently).

3.     Read the description all the time, rewrite it and visualise it until you start to feel like the person you are describing.

4.     When you feel the nudge to take a certain type of action, go with it.  This is you stepping into the new shoes and new performance levels of a new self-image

Note – this is not becoming someone else, this is allowing the real you out.

It will help you stop fearing the talent police, perform confidently in your role and have a lot more fun.

Top tips for leaders wanting to support their employees:

1.     Talk about Imposter Syndrome, raise awareness and encourage discussion.

2.     Invite speakers to help inform, provide knowledge and tools for change.

3.     Talk to experts who can help you to create change around identification of potential, rooting out hidden talent and helping people grow into their true best self.

My ultimate goal would be for development programmes to help employees build their mental muscles so that they:

a.     Believe in their potential

b.     Bring the best of themselves to the table

c.      Feel confident and calm

d.     Feel energised and engaged

e.     Perform at their best feeling confident and calm

We would then no longer need conversations about Imposter Syndrome and how to beat it. 

With special appreciation to my colleague and dear friend Donna Elliot, (best-selling author and founder of Now is Your Time), for introducing me to the talent police.

I am a ‘mentor on a mission’ and I can help guide you towards an exceptional life and results.  Look, I don’t know how else to say it.  When you work with me, your life improves. This is for you, your business, your career, leaders, teams & their employees.

To find out more about Lorna visit www.lornadunning.co.uk

Author: Editorial Team

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