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Personal experience: how to overcome impostor syndrome and allow yourself to be wrong
Personal experience: how to overcome impostor syndrome and allow yourself to be wrong

Destroy other people's attitudes that are stuck in your head, and remember: you don't have to be perfect.

Personal experience: how to overcome impostor syndrome and allow yourself to be wrong
Personal experience: how to overcome impostor syndrome and allow yourself to be wrong

This article is part of the "" project. In it we talk about relationships with ourselves and others. If the topic is close to you, share your story or opinion in the comments. Will wait!

What is Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is a set of experiences associated with feeling like a non-professional. A person doubts whether he has the ability, whether they are sufficient, whether he has the right to take a certain position, do his job, or claim something. Often people think they just happened to be in the right place at the right time. They attribute their achievements to luck or to the fact that others were too kind or busy and overlooked the fact of their incompetence.

A person can live for years in constant tension and think that he is deceiving others, ignore or not recognize his achievements and spend a lot of energy not on work, but on disguising his “unprofessionalism” and feelings that he will be exposed.

I am a coach and usually work with people 25-40 years old. Every second person, describing their request, casually adds: "I have this, impostor syndrome."

Everyone has one self-diagnosis, but everyone has their own "impostor". Someone does not apply for vacancies and projects that they could get, because they believe that he does not have the necessary qualities or he is not talented enough. Someone cannot leave hiring for freelance or consulting because of a panic fear of failure, because “who am I to share my expertise” or “suddenly, in the first month, nothing will work out, and then life is over”. A talented leader is afraid of being exposed by his subordinates, because he does not understand the specific features of their work.

When people who are worried about their professional incompetence first learn about the impostor syndrome, the situation can develop according to two scenarios:

  • "Hurray, I'm not the only one, it is treated, it has a name, you can work with it." Relief comes, and there is support to deal with the sensations. People allow themselves to try.
  • “Everything is clear: I am an impostor, which was required to be proved. I continue to sit in ambush. " There comes a justification of their feelings, frustration and inaction.

Feeling like an impostor can even be beneficial.

Any changes, including positive ones, are stressful. Leaving things as they are and explaining to yourself why “not” saves a lot of energy.

Sometimes we are so afraid of unpleasant sensations and conflict situations in the moment that we are ready to stretch doubts for months. It is like an aching tooth: a person goes to the doctor only when an emergency occurs and painkillers do not help.

What people usually don't do, explaining their inaction with imposture:

  • Do not change habits and behavior.
  • They do not pay attention to their desires, needs, interests, do not trust them.
  • Do not develop, learn, or put into practice what they have learned for fear of failure and public condemnation.
  • They do not start difficult conversations about promotion at work, new challenges, relationships, needs.
  • They do not analyze their capabilities and do not respond to market demands.
  • They do not work with their visibility and self-promotion in the market and within companies, as they are afraid of condemnation.

Why are there so many impostors today

In 1978, two excellent psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Ames, described the phenomenon of imposture through observations of women at the university where they themselves worked. Women believed they were being overrated or mistakenly enrolled and ignored the fact that it was due to their ability. Hello, echoes of long-term gender inequality.

Further observation showed that the experiences of the impostor are inherent in all kinds of minorities and vulnerable groups of citizens. It was difficult for them to succeed, and self-confidence was rather an exception to the rule. But this all happened in the late 80s.

Today, the phenomenon of imposture has mutated and taken over many more people than women and minorities. This is what caused this.

1. Reaction to new things

What is the problem

Impostor Syndrome is activated when a person learns new things or encounters something that they know little about. Until something becomes a conscious competence, we may experience uncertainty and doubt.

But today we learn new things every day. There is simply no time to prepare for this and reflect on each task. The client may need a service that the performer has never provided, and both will learn this new in the process. The project manager expands the range of competencies every month when faced with a challenge in the product, and does not even notice that he is acquiring new skills. And the entrepreneur hires people, in whose work he does not understand anything.

And everything would be fine if not for one but. When some people nevertheless begin to analyze what they do and whether they have the right to be called professionals if they did something imperfectly, attitudes about learning and responsibility, which we get at school, enter the arena:

  • You can't make mistakes - you have to do well right away.
  • It's a shame not to know. The knowledge gap is shame and unprofessionalism.
  • To be considered a professional, you need fundamental knowledge, a crust.
  • If you are in charge, then you must know everything.

All this prevents us from accepting the fact that the instability of the world has changed the attitude towards knowledge. They no longer need to be stored in your head, for this there are Google algorithms and a smartphone. Now you need to be able to find information from the market and apply it, but this seems to most people some kind of unimportant soft-skill. Especially managers of all stripes who are no longer experts at one thing.

What to do

School attitudes are firmly embedded in the very idea of success and achievement, but you can work with them. The first way is to identify and prove to yourself their failure.

1. Don't ignore if there is something confusing you in your thoughts or actions right now. This will help you notice the interfering setting. To isolate such ingrained ideas, you can talk to someone or write down what is spinning in your head. Answer the questions: “What would I like to do, but I am not doing? Why? Pay attention to your explanations. Notice if the interlocutor says: “I don’t understand why you think so, everything is different with me,” and do not think that he does not listen to you or is stupid. Different people may have different attitudes, so communicating with others helps you notice your different ones.

2. Question the found ideas (attitudes) using the questions "Why do I think so?", "Why is it so?"If the answers come to mind “Well, because”, “How else?”, “What a stupid question? This is a no-brainer,”“Every normal person thinks so,”but you cannot give any specific explanations, then you are on the right track.

Common words are markers of other people's ideas in our head, echoes of upbringing and situations in which we have been for a long time.

At first they sound like axioms, but without specifics, you notice that many of them are illogical for you in the modern context.

3. Remember when and from whom you first heard that it is a shame not to know and without a piece of paper you are an insect. Now think about whether you or your environment have encountered situations where this rule was not confirmed. Most likely there are a couple of examples.

You will clearly see that this is not your attitude, but someone else's. For example, your father, who worked as an engineer in one place all his life. It was logical for him to think that knowledge is the main support, and this may not suit you as a marketer or manager. Or the attitude was passed on to you from the first leader who taught you: only those who do not know how to make mistakes are wrong. Now it is difficult for you to act according to the situation, rely on your feelings. You constantly want to double-check everything and collect more data before making a decision.

4. When you feel doubt and even supposedly found the source, ask yourself: “What am I not doing, thinking this is how things work? What exactly does this idea affect? Be honest and specific. These answers contain solutions. You have them, but you did not trust them.

If you understand what attitude entails inaction, then allow yourself to do as you feared, and make sure that no one will bite you for the question and initiative. Getting a response that is not the one we originally expected builds trust and a sense of security about the following situations. Even one incident is sometimes enough to act differently.

Let me give you a personal example. I came to coaching after a management career in education and media management. I had several thousand contacts on my Facebook account, and the most logical solution would be to write: "Hi, I'm starting a coaching practice and looking for clients."

But I was overcome by doubts. How will it look? What if they start writing in the comments: “Ha, coach! How many years of experience do you have to do this? Who are you, anyway?”,“There was a normal career and work, but now this! Apparently, things are really bad? "," What's your crust to call yourself that? " In short, there were many doubts and I postponed the post.

But one day I just sat down and wrote out all these phrases. It turned out that they are spoken by very specific people in my imagination. I attributed the phrases to authorship: Vasya, Pyotr Petrovich, friend Natasha. Then I prepared a specific answer for each imaginary person. They contained facts about why I wanted to do this and what I can do. I decided to rely on them in order to let go of the situation and overcome my attitude.

She closed her eyes and published a post. No one wrote a single negative comment under it, but words of support and interest appeared, which added confidence to me.

And after a few weeks, I was doing one or two sessions a day. The clients who came were important about my past experience and the approach itself, and not what kind of crust I had in my pocket and how many years I have been doing this. For three years of practice, two people asked my diploma as a coach, and then in jest. In our work, they trusted their feelings, and it was important for me to give them the attention and support they came for, and not worry about how I look in their eyes and whether I am doing everything right.

Another way to cope with attitudes about not knowing is to state it openly. This fear is common among impostor leaders, who believe that the boss should understand everything, which is why he is in charge. And if you admit your incompetence in something, then you will no longer be respected.

In fact, the task of the leader is to fully utilize the team's resource and rely on it. Therefore, if you are sitting in a meeting with marketers who speak an incomprehensible language, and you feel fear that you will be exposed, be the first to tell about your ignorance. Remove the tension that prevents them from understanding what they really want from you. Ask experts questions, and do not blame yourself for the fact that you are not strong in something: “I, frankly, do not know much about the technology you are talking about. I can say what result is needed and when, and you tell me what information is needed from me to complete the task and what risks we have."

This is not your specialty, and you have every right to not know something. Accepting this makes you human, and makes it possible for others to refine the task, to feel your contribution and value.

In order not to be exposed and hide their ignorance, people often begin to defend themselves: they become arrogant, passive-aggressive, distance themselves from the team and decisions, thereby greatly complicating the relationship in the team. This requires a lot of energy from the person, but it does not bring returns. So expose yourself first and release the tension.

2. Reaction to successful people

What is the problem

The second reason for the aggravation of the impostor complex in recent years is access to information about others and its volume. We are the first generation of people who know so much about each other's successes, projects, skills, achievements thanks to social media. This can be an irritant if a person is not confident in himself and is in a transitional state: he is mastering something new or realizes his dissatisfaction, and he has nothing to rely on.

The impostor has a montage effect in his head. We compare ourselves to an ideal who has a skill perfectly, and omit information about how many years or effort it took to master it.

The montage effect heals quickly if a person gets into a community of like-minded people. They can explain that it is not the gods who burn the pots. But often imposture keeps you from even asking about someone else's experience. People are afraid to seem stupid, intrusive. “Don’t believe, don’t be afraid, don’t ask” is another wonderful attitude of post-Soviet upbringing.

How to overcome impostor syndrome
How to overcome impostor syndrome

What to do

Such anxiety is treated by a daily change of focus from others to oneself: “What value do I want to create?”, “What problem am I solving?”. As long as our attention is on those around us, on the outside world, which we do not control, there will be many reasons for concern and new ones may be added every day. And if you are having a difficult period, then cleaning the tape or temporarily covering up annoying people is taking care of yourself.

The ability to keep tension, manage expectations of yourself as you master a skill and adapt to the context becomes the main distinguishing feature of those who quickly achieve success in a new field for themselves (in two or three years).

Against this background, by the way, bloggers' and info-business courses flourished: “Master your profession in two months”, “We will teach you everything, you just come”. The very idea of education that will cure a disease is very attractive. But, alas, this does not always help to cope with thoughts of insolvency and unprofessionalism. People graduate from courses, and the same impostor prevents them from applying their knowledge in practice: "What if I let everyone down and, therefore, deceive?"

3. Recognition of others versus self-recognition

What is the problem

The impostor devalues his achievements and abilities. He simply ignores some facts, for example, “completed the project on time” or “proposed a solution that the client chose”, and concentrates on thoughts that allegedly indicate his unprofessionalism:

  • “Yes, I finished the project on time, but we miraculously made it. I calculated everything wrong, because I don't know how to plan."
  • “Yes, the client chose my solution, but due to the tight deadlines, he simply had no other options - just agree to ours.”

Often people simply do not notice their professionalism or its manifestations. And in order for competencies to become a pillar, they must be discerned and called their abilities.

Usually, people shift the responsibility to consider potential to someone else: a boss, colleagues, clients. Experiences "What does Vasily Petrovich think about my work?" or "No matter what Vasily Petrovich thinks about my work!" absorb all the attention of a person and take away the last strength. And if the process of rethinking their abilities or contribution to a common cause goes slower than they would like, people again return to imposture and find more and more confirmation for it.

Today, self-recognition can be called an adult metaskill, along with critical thinking, flexibility, attention management, focusing on a task, and setting priorities. Because it’s a pillar of instability - knowing you have a portfolio of skills, getting the right one and using it, not spending all your energy avoiding exposure, over-preparing for projects, and experiencing doubts instead of the work itself.

What to do

Start journaling. Every day, or at least a couple of times a week, note what you did well, what you did better than yesterday, and what you want to thank yourself for. Gratitude, from the point of view of neuroscience, provides an opportunity not only to cope with negative emotions and anxiety, but also to really reflect on what changes from day to day. For this I have a personal channel in Telegram, which is available only to me.

Don't write what you don't believe in or praise yourself. It is enough just to note what you were doing today: "Well done, that I held this meeting differently" or "Cool that I asked Vasily Petrovich what to do and did not waste time."

It is important not to wait for large-scale achievements, but to celebrate something small, individual every day.

It helps to cope with maximalism and perfectionism. Our great achievements come from systematic steps. Experience is also formed from small actions, so it is worth recording the process that leads to a high-quality result. If you see your own actions and the effect of them, it is more difficult for you to discount it.

But for this practice to work for you, you need regularity for a couple of months. Small things are forgotten quickly, and it's best to write everything down while you remember.

You can also make a folder of praise from others. It can be an album on your phone with screenshots of letters or messages in instant messengers where you are praised, with customer reviews, letters of gratitude and gratitude. On a hard day and moments of anxiety, "now everyone will know that I …" this is a great way to collect your thoughts and rely on facts. I have such a folder.

Dealing with an Inner Impostor

1. Change your attitude towards the error

Make it a part of the process: directly allow yourself to not know something and be wrong. This turns you in the right direction, rather than paralyzing the activity. You have more than one attempt to cope with any task, just prepare yourself for it right away and do not expect a perfect result. If you made a mistake, be sure to ask yourself the question: "What do I know now?" - so that this incident helps you become a better professional.

2. Get experience, not knowledge

Strive to try different things and apply knowledge in practice. If you repeat something 10 times, on the 11th it will seem understandable. If you don't know how to evaluate your work, ask for feedback to understand both your strengths and areas that need improvement. Exactly improvements: do not try to take into account one corrective comment, but forget about the rest, four positive ones.

3. Ask others about their experiences

Don't just ask how people have accomplished something. Specify how much time and repetitions it took the person to achieve the result. This will help to avoid the montage effect.

4. Ask for help if you need it

This allows you to create an environment for change, rather than being barricaded from the world. Remember that without your own experience, you will not have confidence that you can do something. Constant overwork and perseverance is a temporary solution. You can make too many commitments that you cannot fulfill, so it is better to ask more and get to the heart of the question faster. Time is money. Both yours and companies, clients.

5. Set realistic goals and deadlines

Achievability is one of the key considerations when it comes to long-term motivation. And if you are learning new things, trying different behaviors, or learning by doing, then you will need a lot of energy. Therefore, it is worth breaking the big goal into small stages and taking stock of each one in order to praise yourself and not be disappointed.