Last week, I was coaching a leader from a wonderful institution. She was talking about her desire to do everything perfectly and to not disappoint herself and other people. The more we conversed, the more it became apparent that this leader suffers from Imposter Syndrome.

I have written about Imposter Syndrome previously in this newsletter, but the prevalence of this issue among leaders I have coached and with whom I have spoken prompts me to address it again.

Researchers have estimated that at some point during our careers, 70% of us feel Imposter Syndrome. In fact, 50% of people – half the workplace population – feel Imposter Syndrome on a weekly basis. Think about that number: On a weekly basis, half of the workforce are unable or unwilling to internalize their accomplishments and are questioning their skills or knowledge.

Given this pervasiveness of Imposter Syndrome, leaders need to determine how to empower themselves to avoid self-constructed hurdles, to effectively challenge their inner critic and to learn to trust their own skills and knowledge.

How can we figure out if we are suffering from Imposter Syndrome? We can identify behaviors that we may be exhibiting or using, whether we realize it or not:





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So many leaders who are afflicted with Imposter Syndrome possess very strong work ethics, but have a tendency to fall victim to emotional overwhelm and consistent overthinking. These feelings are often accompanied by self-criticism and a sacrifice of their own wellbeing for the wellbeing of others, as well as the adoption of unrealistic goals. Leaders who feel Imposter Syndrome give in to their inner critic and imagine danger or trouble where there really is none.

Leaders who are willing to confront their Imposter Syndrome can intentionally strive to create and sustain habits that attack their inner critic and help hold up a mirror to their achievements and successes. They can:

-Engage in grounding exercises like breathing or intentional body scans to bring calm and rationality to a situation

-Personify their inner critic, recognizing he wants to take over, but choosing to park him to the side or talk to him and explain to him that you will not allow him to take over

-Choose to avoid playing “hero ball” and instead ask for help

-Acknowledge how your own attitudes and habits contribute to your tendency to surrender to your negative beliefs

-Reframe your typical thought patterns to fight back against your prior scripts and automatic responses

-Replace your negative self-talk with positive and solution-oriented encouraging messaging

-Choose to not think of success or failure as binary but think of success on a project, paper or assignment as part of a process

-Set progressive goals for yourself rather than one monumental goal

-Achieve small and meaningful wins on a consistent basis to enhance your self-confidence

-Know in advance what will define success and refrain from upgrading that definition or allowing someone else to do that to you

Please remember – virtually all leaders suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Those who address it most successfully start with self-awareness: they acknowledge it as a real challenge and then adopt strategies for effectively rejecting it, acknowledging it and dealing with it, personifying it and laughing at it, or analyzing it and removing it as a barrier to success.

Have you been weighed down by the burdensome impact of Imposter Syndrome? If so, what can you do starting tomorrow to help yourself shed that burden?

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