4 Tips to Combat Imposter Syndrome

worried-professional-woman-imposter-syndrome

To look at Suzanne, one would think she had everything. She was attractive, self-assured, and handled her responsibilities with aplomb. Yet in our coaching session Suzanne confessed that, even though she was a highly respected leader who had the C-suite’s ear, she felt like an imposter and worried that she would be exposed as a fraud.

Suzanne is not alone. Many women feel like this.

If you don’t feel like you deserve your success, read on.

Even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said, “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud.” It is estimated that 70 percent of people (not just women) feel this way, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

Impostor syndrome–the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications–was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes,” writes Abigail Abrams. The psychologists initially believed that impostor syndrome was experienced only by professional women, but this has been proven untrue.

Clance published a paper in 1993 acknowledging that impostor syndrome was not limited to women, according to Abrams, and later developed an online test for impostor syndrome. And some psychologists now believe that impostor syndrome is not a distinct, permanent condition, but a complicated state people experience when they are feeling stretched.

Who suffers from this condition?

Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate, and can happen regardless of the level of success a person has achieved in their field,” writes Danielle Page, for NBCnews.com. According to Page, certain factors can increase your chances of experiencing impostor syndrome. Your gender is one of them. Women are socialized as little girls to be more risk-averse than little boys, and this socialization can show up in later years in work-related situations.

Then there are the perfectionists. Perfectionists live with the fervent desire for success, but they focus on avoiding failure, which often leads to procrastination and self-sabotage. “Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand,” writes Melody Wilding. “Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up.”

How imposter syndrome could be hurting your career

Your struggles with impostor syndrome could be causing problems for you at work. Think about it. Are you sabotaging your best efforts? Are you overcompensating and working yourself to the bone? Do you hang back from the spotlight? Or do you set yourself up to fail by finishing a project late–or not finishing it at all? Each of these behaviors only serves to underscore your sense of not being good enough or knowing enough. And can lead to trouble with your team and potentially damage the trajectory of your career.

“Imposter phenomenon can also correlate to worse outcomes at work–perhaps due to these unhealthy working habits,” writes Belle Cooper. “A study of over 200 professionals at the University of Salzburg found those experiencing imposter phenomenon tended to be paid less, were less likely to be promoted, and felt less committed and satisfied at work.”

Imposter syndrome can turn into a cycle of self-doubt, self-monitoring, fear, and self-criticism, which can, in turn, cause you to overwork and suffer burn out or miss opportunities because you assume you aren’t good enough.

How to turn it around

If any of this sounds familiar, and you think you may be dealing with impostor syndrome, try this: Think of yourself as a work in progress. Find someone you admire and ask them to go out for coffee. See if you can talk about your self-doubt and ask them how they handle their own. You may be pleasantly surprised at their answers.

Impostor syndrome doesn’t have to last forever. There are a host of strategies and tactics you can employ to help you move through the imposter mindset and into a healthier and happier you. Try asking for feedback and really listening to both good and critical comments. Accept compliments with a gracious and straightforward acknowledgment, and stop being so afraid of failing or making mistakes. Someone who is a work in progress learns from doing things right–and from doing things wrong. You’re going to be just fine, you’ll see.

I gave Suzanne the following assignments in our last coaching session:

  1. Accept that you have those feelings instead of beating yourself up
  2. Overcome it by regularly reviewing your accomplishments (writing them down helps)
  3. Develop a script so you can at least “act” deserving and confident
  4. Ask for feedback often, the more you hear about the value you’re bringing to others, the more you can internalize it

I’m confident she will work through each of them and, in time, her feelings of self-doubt will be a thing of the past.

Note: be on the lookout for my new book, The New Global Manager, due out in September! Click here to get early notice of the book’s availability and receive a free gift.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

12 Stress-Free Days of Christmas: The Secrets to Managing Stress at Work

stress free for holidays
It’s the time of year–the time to feel stressed! But a little awareness can go a long way.

Why is it that what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of year is riddled with stress and deadlines–personal and professional? Gifts to buy. Casseroles to bake. Family to see. Reviews to make. Quotas to meet. Deals to close…

The to-do lists get looooonger this time of year as the time to tackle it gets much, much shorter. It’s no wonder a lot of us feel like we have more in common with the Grinch than Tiny Tim. (In fact, studies show 70 percent of professionals are more stressed this time of year).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little awareness can go a long way.

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 unique ways to keep stress at bay this holiday season.

Sleep.

If there’s only one thing you can do to manage stress—it’s sleep. If you aren’t well rested, everything else is likely to go haywire–your mood, your diet, your exercise, your work quality.

So, prioritize it.

Don’t stay up late wrapping gifts for your co-workers. People would much rather have a happy, healthy officemate than a grump with a beautifully wrapped candle in hand.

Forgo that second cookie.

Sure, sweets are a part of the season. But there’s something you need to remember–sugar can be your enemy.

There’s really nothing good about sugar except for the taste. It’s bad for your body. It can wreak havoc on your sleep. And, it can even cause depression. Oh, and it’s addictive, too.

If you have too much sugar in a day, you’ll have a high and then crash–leaving you little energy to accomplish anything and causing your stress levels to sky rocket.

So, when you find yourself reaching for another frosted reindeer, go for a walk and wait until that dopamine level drops.

Match water with cocktails.

While on the topic of the evil of sugar, it’s worth mentioning that alcohol has sugar in it.

Too many cocktails can not only lead to bad decisions, but it can mess with your sleep and cause anxiety, stress, and depression.

While at the holiday party, think before you drink–and, drink water in between each cocktail. This will help fill you up and cushion the blow of a potential hangover.

Get moving.

Yes, you have a lot to get done. But news flash, taking time to exercise may actually energize you to get more accomplished.

If you must go shopping during your lunch break, take the full hour and walk some laps around the mall, or take a few flights of stairs each time you need to hit the restroom.

Work in a little movement in here and there, and feel some big spikes in your energy level.

Create white space.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a really great blog post on the importance of scheduling nothing. “Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he said.

Creating white space on your calendar for yourself is a way to seize your day back, rather than let it be beholden to to-do lists, emails, and phone calls.

This time of year, use that time to reflect on the past and what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. This will help you prepare for those end-of-year performance reviews lurking around the corner.

Resist the frenzy.

People are in a rush more this time of year than ever. The hot topic of conversation is how everyone doesn’t have time to have a conversation because they are so busy.

Don’t buy the hype. Buck it. Slow down and prioritize. Look at everything you have to get done and aim to get rid of 20 percent of it by delegating, pushing it off to next year, or simply not doing it at all. You may be surprised by how rewarding that feels.

Create a helpful culture.

If you feel like you’re drowning, chances are your team feels that way, too. Talk to them about how you recognize that everyone has a lot on their plate and tell them to speak up if they need help.

Emphasize the importance of leaning on one another, and the art and magic of true collaboration.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Don’t wait until you’re totally freaking out to start trying to calm yourself down.

Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and help you de-stress.

Try this simple exercise–inhale for the count of four. Then slowly exhale for a count of four. Work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of six. Do it for five minutes a day and see how much more relaxed you are.

Manage expectations.

You have a lot to do and not as much time to do it–don’t keep that a secret. Tell your co-workers, clients, and family members about your limited availability and the potential for slower response times so they know what to expect from you.

This way you hopefully won’t be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you’re disappointing them.

Tell them what’s up.

You know that saying that communication is key–well, it really is key this time of year–especially if you are working globally or in dispersed teams where colleagues and clients may not understand what holidays in the U.S. entail.

Be upfront about your schedule and capacity so they aren’t expecting to hear from you when you’re huddled by the tree feverishly trying to put together a kitchen set for your child.

Compartmentalize.

The holidays can be emotional times–the intensity of family, work, and partner interactions can be heightened. And, it is tough to leave that awful fight you had with your sibling behind as you walk into your office.

Do your best to let that friction go. People are extra sensitive this time of year so don’t take what they say personally. And, understand that you can handle whatever is on your mind later once everyone cools down.

Don’t overcommit.

Best laid plans are, well, that. Know that things will pop up or not work out, and it’s okay. Be flexible. Do only what must absolutely be done–and try to enjoy yourself.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.

Five Friday Highlights: Hubris, Humility, and Stress

Work Stress

As I have traveled to Germany recently, conducted workshops for LinkedIn, and continued developing my exclusive coaching program for female executives, I have been thinking about gender diversity, work stress, living conditions, and the difference between success and failure. These five posts each touch on those topics from various angles.

Why VC’s Aren’t Funding Women-Led Startups from Knowledge@Wharton raises realistic and honest questions about how women can have a more equitable share of VC funding. It’s sad to note that in 2016 I can attest to the fact that the male hubris/female humility effect is still asserting itself throughout the tech world. A quote from Ethan Mollick: “If entrepreneurship is based in part on hubris, [the] male hubris, female humility effect tells us something about why women are less likely to do start-ups.”

Topics like “humility” and “confidence” lead me to ponder what talent acquisition specialists really focus on when looking for a perfect fit for their organization. 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is One Of The Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company contends that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ! The article outlines seven reasons emotional intelligence is considered so valuable. One of my favorites is the fact that emotionally intelligent people are more open to feedback.

14 Inspiring Habits of Successful Digital Entrepreneurs from Cox Business’s Blue was quite the thorough inventory of what it takes to be a successful digital entrepreneur. These “inspiring habits” apply to success outside the digital realm as well. My favorite (of course) is think globalDigital entrepreneurs have a mindset that isn’t restricted by geopolitical borders. They understand that the noise is greater but the niches are larger. Because they are global.

I also try to keep my finger on the pulse of what workers of all generations are doing to survive. Where are they living? How are they spending their disposable income? How do they integrate work and life? This one reflects a trend that speaks both to values and the current economy: For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds from the The Pew Research Center. The category “share living with spouse or partner” continues to fall, according to the study, which states, “This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35.”

Finally, no matter what generational demographic you fall into, stress at work has to happen to you at least occasionally! There was a great suggestion and a fresh angle in Want to Decrease Your Stress at Work? Encourage Your Coworkers from Forbes. Citing research that demonstrates how encouraging coworkers can reduce stress, the article continues, “In addition to the brain benefits and reduced stress that result from supporting your colleagues, doing so will help create a culture where your coworkers can lean on one another and encourage each other in stressful tasks.”

And who doesn’t want less stress and more encouragement? I encourage you to let me know what reading has made a difference for you recently. Email me with your recommendations!

Image Credit: 123rf/Ion Chiosea