Imposter Syndrome is a global phenomenon experienced by 70% of individuals. Despite its prevalence, how and why it shows up in individuals can be very different.
It is influenced by factors including: How we grew up, where we grew up, our parents or caregivers actions, environmental, societal and social conditions we were exposed to, to name a few.
In order for our Imposter feelings to surface there needs to be a Trigger.
A Trigger is an event, situation, scenario or interaction you experience that then sets off your Imposter feelings.
Here are 7 of the most common triggers I see for Imposter Syndrome
Being out of your comfort zone, such as public speaking opportunity, starting a business, getting a promotion, or leading a project. All good things but triggers none the less.
Achieving success quickly or fast for your age (think of the Harry Potter actors, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson who are both on record saying they’ve felt like imposters).
Being in the minority, such as being a woman in a male-dominated field.
Being the first, or the only person like you, such as age, gender, family history, ethnicity or sexual orientation/identity.
Bullying or harassment in the workplace, or in your personal life. Someone questioning your abilities in an unfair manner can resurface those unworthy feelings from the past which contributed to your Imposter Syndrome.
Competitive or Toxic work environments/cultures, such as ‘dog eat dog’ cultures that pit you against your colleagues, extreme working hours where you’re expected to work around the clock and ‘always be available’.
Receiving external validation such as, winning awards, being the highest performer, closing large deals, appearing in media or on stage at events. All good things but can be triggering.
If your trigger is not displayed here, don’t despair. Everyone has their own unique triggers, these 7 common ones are just a guide for you.
How does Imposter Syndrome take over your thoughts?
Once you’ve been triggered and you feel like a fraud, negative thoughts take over your mind and play on autopilot. We refer to these as ANTS (automatic negative thoughts)
> I can’t speak in the meeting because they’ll think my idea is stupid
> I can’t change jobs because everyone will find out I’m not really qualified
> If I work hard to please everyone, they won’t find out I’m a fraud
These ANTS reaffirm the limiting belief we hold that ‘we are not good enough, that we are frauds’ and this impacts our behaviours and actions.
You act according to your thoughts:
- You strive for Perfection – anything less is deemed failure
- You don’t speak up in the meeting
- You don’t apply for the job
- You don’t launch the business
- You work yourself to exhaustion or burnout, trying to do everything for everyone
- You spend countless hours up-skilling or gaining more certifications in the hope it makes you feel less of a fraud
As a result, you miss out on opportunities, and feel bad for not achieving your goals. OR you push yourself to burnout to secure a ‘result’, only to not enjoy it because you’re more relieved than happy, and you’re totally stressed out.
The good news is, once you become aware of your triggers and take notice of your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) you can learn to intercept and redirect them into a new and true story.
Intercept and redirect your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)
Here’s how you can start.
Coaching tip: Confidently Reframe Imposter Thoughts
Grab your journal or some notepaper.
Think of the last time you felt like a fraud.
What was the ANT you said to yourself:
Now let’s reframe this ANT into a NEW AND TRUE story:
Here is an example to help you:
Situation: You’re in an important team meeting at work
Trigger: You’ve been asked to lead the new project
ANT: I can’t lead. Sally is way more qualified. They’ll know I am a fraud
Confident Reframe based on evidence: I have just as much experience as everyone else and the boss chose me for a reason so I am going to give it my best shot.
Now you know how to identify your Imposter Syndrome triggers and start to reframe your Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Be sure to do the exercise every time your thoughts turn nasty.
Document all of your ANTs and all of your TRIGGERS because awareness is key.
You can’t necessarily see a trigger coming – even when you know what they are – but you can get faster at intercepting and redirecting your ANTs before they cause you to self sabotage.
You can take control of your Imposter Syndrome, so if/when it does raise it’s head you can jump on it immediately.
Eventually the Imposter feelings will be less prevalent or for some disappear entirely.