Are you an imposter?
Yeah, me too and maybe you are also sick of how frustrating, anxiety-inducing and exhausting living as an imposter can be.
But what are your insecurities making you do, that are unnecessary, time-consuming, expensive, and worse still, probably of little benefit to furthering your career and your success?
In a recent LinkedIn live conversation hosted by Senior LinkedIn News Editor Cayla Dengate, my fellow panellist Alicia McKay and I were asked questions about imposterdom, confidence and the risk of burnout at work.
Alicia is the author of the book, “You don’t need an MBA: Leadership lessons that cut through the crap.” She’s warm, funny, and down to earth (you knew that already from the book title, right?) and what she speaks about is true.
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through the academic brochures for that prestigious MBA, an eye-wateringly expensive master’s degree, or thought about doing a PhD?
Was it because you really, really, as in REALLY want the intellectual stimulation and learning?
Or is it because you think you need to, to further your career, to give yourself a special tick on your CV and stand out in a crowded workplace?
As someone who is addicted to learning and gets a real buzz out of new discoveries, I recognise there have been times where to be seen as credible enough, I’ve contemplated further studies, often at a time when the imposter voice is being particularly noisy.
It was Seth Godin, who stopped me in my tracks with his blog comment one day,
“It is possible you don’t need to get better at your craft. It’s possible you need to be braver instead.”
The days of getting into college or Uni to do a degree and set yourself up in a job that would head you in the direction of guaranteed career success are long over.
Some companies no longer seek evidence of tertiary academic achievements for job selection in middle or higher-skill roles. This is because exam results reward hard work, good memory, and an ability to regurgitate learned facts. They don’t show how you would respond in a crisis, deal with difficult people or be a good team player.
Before entering medicine, I trained as a State Registered Nurse. This was at a time when nursing degree training was still in its infancy. Today it’s a given. But do we really need all these academic gongs? Why is it a single bachelor’s degree is no longer sufficient to be fully qualified in your chosen career? The expectation being that you have to do your master’s and possibly a PhD before you can even get started.
This relentless pursuit of ever more is feeding our insecurities, self-doubt, level of imposterdom, risk of mental health challenges and burnout.
With 82% of us operating at some level of imposterdom, (yep, it’s not just your dirty little secret) it’s easy to see how comparisonitis, FOMO and herd mentality have led to the situation where we are frequently ending up overqualified and under experienced.
Imposterdom can be overcome
No one was more surprised than I was to be diagnosed with high-functioning anxiety.
Along with the comment “your choice of careers, probably didn’t help.”
But it explained a lot!
For years I had struggled with feeling unworthy of my position, had always fought hard to stay closer to considering myself equitable with my peers who I placed on a pedestal of being more talented, more intelligent, and far more deserving of success.
I was the student who applied herself to hours more study than necessary, experienced more angst of not being enough, and denied myself the pleasures of time off to relax with friends. I was consumed with the need to know more. It was an anxious obsession and only served to feed my insecurities.
And, accompanied by chronic emotional and mental exhaustion, along with little satisfaction in my achievements contributed to my eventual burnout.
Learning that my normal wasn’t, and that I could do something about it, was life-changing.
Letting go of the need to always be “doing” work and learning to savour what I saw as vital to my own wellbeing and others led to
A career change and a massive shift in my relationship with my mindset and boundaries.
A growth in confidence in my ability to do valuable work for others.
Improved satisfaction in what I was achieving.
I was more relaxed, happy, and content.
A massive lowering of stress levels. I could now be me.
The imposter still lurks but isn’t constantly whispering in my ear, and I’m not always listening.
Three things can help raise confidence and reduce imposterdom and this ridiculous need to prove ourselves, including,
- Having a mentor or trusted colleague you can talk freely with. Someone who supports you and offers words of encouragement. Feeling encouraged is such a powerful stimulus to know you are OK and enough.
- Stepping bravely into the thing you’re afraid of, but know you’re perfectly capable of doing, recording, and celebrating the fact.
- Dialling down that little voice that’s telling you stories, that are fundamentally not true. You might not be able to silence that little voice, but you can tell it to shut up, and stay curious to what’s going on in your world that’s increasing your level of self-doubt.
Imposterdom creates a prison of our own mind. It’s time to break free and relish the freedom self-confidence provides you to fully thrive.
Has imposterdom held you back? If so, what worked for you to overcome it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker, trainer and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is available for purchase
If psychological safety, burnout prevention and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.