Tips to Push Past Career Insecurities
Within a matter of a few weeks, I recently heard several IREM members publicly criticize themselves and seriously question their abilities at current roles as senior managers and company leaders. These are members who are great at what they do, are reputable, well-liked by colleagues and also effectively balance family life and volunteer roles. Why would they put themselves down or doubt their talents?
This seemed like bizarre behavior to me at first, and then I remembered my first year at IREM. I precisely recall a period where I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to cut it in my Executive Director role and vividly imagined the entire chapter crumbling. I was certain the hiring team that entrusted the organization to me was about to realize their tragic mistake.
As it turns out, I now know there is a term for this behavior called impostor syndrome and it is estimated that 70% of people will experience the feeling at least once in their life. Famous authors, actors, and politicians have had the feeling they are a fraud, despite their ongoing and highly public successes. Despite all external evidence of competence, some may experience moments where they doubt themselves and are convinced they do not deserve all that they have achieved.
While both sexes often experience these feelings, studies report that it is slightly more prominent in female professionals. The phenomenon of impostor syndrome can often be a reaction to particular events such as a promotion or the transition to a bigger, better building with more employees. It is most common in professionals that are perfectionists and high-achievers. And the unfortunate thing is that it can rear its head by causing symptoms that range from low self-confidence, depression and anxiety.
Obviously, feeling like a fraud and carrying the stress of believing you can’t perform well or succeed is a terrible feeling. A professional who is feeling that way needs to quickly figure out how to combat that negative thought process. The sooner they get beyond the impostor syndrome, the sooner they can begin to enjoy experiences again and flourish at whatever task is ahead of them.
If you are experiencing impostor syndrome or know it is lurking behind the corner (waiting for the moment the boss gives you a multi-million dollar project to oversee) then here are suggestions for silencing that negative voice in your head once and for all:
Pen to Paper - List all of the things you believe are worthy about yourself. Accept that you have had a role in your successes and own up to what you bring to the table by writing those things down. If it helps, list the value you bring to your employer or the project you feel insecure about. Make sure you include the skills you have that others don’t have.
External Reminders – Early in my career I was told to keep a file with all the nice things people say about my work product and performance. No matter how small, if someone recognized something you did or told you that you made a difference, keep it. When feelings of insecurity sweep over you, pull out the compliments and positive feedback as a reminder.
Take a Break from Comparison – Stop comparing yourself to others in your office, your company, in the HBJ and on your social media feed. The habit of comparison is typically not meaningful and will not serve you well. If you find yourself falling down that rabbit hole, try instead to recognize the negative internal dialog and work to change it.
Fake it Until You Make it – This in age-old adage that holds so much validity. If you are not feeling deserving of whatever good things are coming your way, just pretend. Pretend you deserved that promotion and added responsibility. Imagine yourself as someone else. How would they act while leading that important meeting? How would they carry themselves? Then go out and do that.
Find a Mentor – If the feelings of impostor syndrome are frequent, you may need to connect with someone who has ‘been there, done that’. Chances are there are others in your company, your church, your professional association who once were in your shoes and would love to share their advice. Having the experiences of others to refer to can give you peace of mind.
Phone A Friend – In your career, you are only as good as the five people you surround yourself with. Make sure you maintain alliances with people you can confide in and who will build you up. When the feeling of low self-worth creeps in, seek friends and conversations that put everything back into perspective.
Everyone will experience self-doubt at some point, but pay attention to times it may be getting the better of you. Impostor syndrome can only beat you down if you allow it to. It can’t do damage to a person’s psyche if the person is working to push the feelings of self-doubt aside. The sooner you get out of your own head and into real-world action, the better.
Once you are out of the throes of the impostor syndrome, work to stay in that lane. Chances are whatever caused you to doubt your abilities is actually something that is challenging you to grow and become better. Make your internal voice focus on all the good, read inspirational quotes, set empowering goals and take baby steps toward them. Take a few moments out of each day to support your new mindset of success, and you’ll kick that impostor syndrome to the curb once and for all.
About the Author: Jo D. Miller serves as the IREM Houston Executive Director. She earned her Bachelor Degree in Advertising from Texas State University and has 25 years experience managing associations and working with volunteers.