The Impact of Imposter Syndrome
Several of my clients are going through big transitions this summer––new jobs, new homes, and new cities. It’s an exciting time! Some clients are Jump Start Your Job Search clients who have landed new roles outside their organization. Other clients are moving internally or growing in their current roles or companies. One coaching client is taking a new job that requires relocating. Even change we want, change that is positive, can be stressful and cause some unwanted feelings to pop up. A biggie on that list of unwanted feelings is imposter syndrome.
According to the research Denise Corey and I conducted when developing our imposter syndrome workshop series, imposter syndrome feelings have a tendency to show up when people are in new situations. New situations challenge our feelings of belonging because we don’t know how or if we fit in. It’s completely normal to hear that voice in your head saying things like, “Are you sure you can do this?” or “Wait until they find out who you really are!” or asking “Who do you think you are?!”
One’s sense of belonging feels threatened in new situations, and putting on a mask or persona is a protective response. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Valerie Young identified 5 imposter syndrome personas that we typically reach for when our sense of belonging, or our personal dignity, or our personal safety are being threatened. These five personas act as a shield against the fear. But when feeling imposter syndrome feelings, how often do you ask yourself: What is at risk? Is it true?
I encourage my clients to notice their imposter syndrome feelings and specific situations where they want to reach for their mask. Rather than reach and react, the best path forward is to pause, reflect, and choose a response. During a recent coaching session with my client who is relocating and starting a new job, she identified three things she could do when flooded by imposter syndrome feelings. 1. Keep a list of her accomplishments nearby. She plans to write them down and keep them within reach. She will reach for her list rather than reach for a mask. 2. Identify a mantra that makes her feel strong that she can use when she is not feeling confident. 3. Print an image of something that evokes how she wants to show up at work: fierce and confident.
My client is excited about her plan to combat her imposter syndrome feelings rather than allow those feelings to overwhelm her. In our workshop series, Denise and I say that it is healthy to have imposter feelings because it means you are putting yourself out there in new situations! We want our clients to grow and develop, and imposter syndrome often comes with that change. And it’s great to have a plan for when those feelings arise so you can show up with confidence, competence and professionalism.