I spent some time last month in the company of a group of dynamic and forward-thinking women. It was a fascinating, uplifting experience—but it proved to me that nearly all of us is hiding a toxic secret.
Although we delegates were drawn from different walks of life and stages in our careers, we had lots of different things in common. Some of us found it hard to accept compliments. Only one of us could manage to say no to taking on too much work. Most of us said we would go out of our way to avoid conflict, and confessed to wasting too much time on our phones.
Over four days, post-graduate women on a personal development course offered by the University of Gloucestershire were shown techniques for coping with life and the workplace.
There was one thing that every single person in the room—guest speakers included— admitted to suffering at least once in their lives. It’s called Imposter Syndrome.
People with Imposter Syndrome can’t accept that they’ve succeeded on their own merits. They’re convinced it must all be down to luck, or that they are frauds. Convinced they’ll be exposed sooner or later, people with Imposter Syndrome can’t enjoy their achievements. They are always worried someone is going to “find them out”.
Life shouldn’t be like that. Once you realise almost everyone feels the same way you do, it’s a great relief. A little bit of shock and awe when you achieve something is natural. Just make sure you learn to accept that some things in life are down to your talent and hard work, rather than luck.
You were the best candidate who was called for that interview. Somebody spotted something special in your application form. Then on the day you proved you were the best person for the job!
Your book was accepted by a publisher, not because they were feeling sorry for you but because they thought people would love to read it. Everyone in business wants to make a return on their investment. You must have earned that contract!
You can shake off Imposter Syndrome, but it takes work. Try listing five of your achievements. Here are my five: I learned to swim, I learned to ride a bike and drive a car, I’ve sold nearly three million books, and I was accepted onto a post-graduate course last year despite leaving school at 16 (a long time ago), without so much as an A-level.
Not everybody wants to be a writer, or go to university as a mature student, but most people learn to swim, ride and drive. Those are all great and useful achievements. The important thing about them (and many others) is that no-one can do them for you. There may be a dash of luck involved on the day, but 99% of your success in those skills will have been down to your hard work.
Fight back against Imposter Syndrome right now. Post a comment on here about something you’ve done that has made you feel really proud of yourself!
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