This week was the end of my month long holiday and mental health break because leading up to it, I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed, burnt out and physically and mentally exhausted. I started to seriously doubt my work, my abilities, my accomplishments and even “my why” which is to help people.
Am I good enough? Am I doing enough? Did I do enough? I felt I didn't deserve much of the success I had experienced/experiencing and that I was somewhat of a fraud. That it was just a matter of time before I was found out. I questioned, felt guilty about and doubted everything. Hello imposter syndrome.
According to the Journal of Behavioural Science, Impostor Syndrome affects an estimated 70 per cent of people globally at some point in their lives. While impostor syndrome is not unique to women, women are more likely to experience this phenomenon especially perfectionists like me who agonise over the tiniest of details.
What is imposter syndrome?
The term, Imposter Syndrome was first used and introduced by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance from a study they conducted in 1978. Harvard Business Review defines it as
a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.
Signs and symptoms
Constant comparison to other people
Distrust in one's own intuition and capabilities
Fear that you won't live up to expectations
Dwelling on the past
In professional settings, typical examples include:
Taking on extra work to make sure you’re “doing it all”
An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
Shrugging off accolades
Attributing your success to external factors
Sabotaging your own success
Not applying to job postings unless you meet every single requirement
Ah-huh! Exactly what and how I was feeling at the time but it wasn't just about my professional life, it extended to my personal life too. I felt this overwhelming feeling of ‘I don't deserve this’ or ‘I don't quite belong’ or ‘this is sheer luck’ or 'I'm not good enough'.
Looking back, I have experienced some of the feelings, signs and symptoms on more than one occasion, several times in fact particularly during my time climbing the corporate ladder or when I was experiencing some type of success such as the time I became school captain.
Dealing with and overcoming it
I also realised that the moments I did doubt myself or suffered from imposter syndrome were the times that I didn't look after myself, I wasn't being true to who I was or I simply didn't follow my gut instincts or my values. It was also more prevalent when I didn't manage my insecurities well. And, that is what I believe imposter syndrome is...just fat, ugly, scary and hairy insecurities.
What I quickly realised was, internal self-talk was incredibly powerful in helping or hindering with my insecurities. It can empower you to adjust and grow or it can be incredibly disruptive and destructive. To regain control, I looked at what I was putting in my body and importantly my mind. Coffee always made me feel anxious. It exacerbated and heightened my feelings so I stopped drinking it which was incredibly hard given I was a serious coffee drinker. I also stopped watching and reading the news and limited social media time as it fed into this cycle of negativity and self-loathing.
During this mental health holiday, emotional detox, self-care period, whatever you call it break...I spent time listening, studying or upskilling. I practiced meditation and gratitude. Fed my mind with positive affirmations and cleared it of negative feelings. The reason for this was simple. I wanted to get back into shape not only physically but emotionally and mentally. I wanted to build resilience. Like muscles, I needed to train and look after myself. I changed my routine, my diet and importantly continuously worked on my thinking. I dealt with and recognised feelings instead of ignoring them by accepting it, understanding it, talking it through or just letting it go. Quite a therapeutic process I might add.
Don't think, just do!
I did small deliberate actions every day whether it was being present and playing with the kids to cooking nice healthy meals for the family or just going for a run. I spent time doing things I would not normally want to do...things I put off, feared most or found scary. I deliberately and consciously did things that made me feel uncomfortable.
I cut out all the noise, the negativity and the nastiness from within and just got shit done. I stopped trying to be perfect all the time and reminded myself that getting it done is better than not having it done at all. Eventually my routine and habits changed, I built resilience and became stronger, and importantly, I learnt to deal with my insecurities by acknowledging and accepting my faults and flaws.
Unlike a fad or extreme diet, I am not going to suddenly stop after 4 weeks. I am going to continue to do this and actively commit to working on this every single day. I am going to continue to reprogram my mind, learn and unlearn behaviours, be present, focussed and continuously work on what is important. And, when doubt or imposter syndrome creeps in, I am going to actively remind myself to...
Side note: I haven't had coffee in over 4 weeks and absolutely loving it.
Listen. Learn. Lead.
- Joana x
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Joana is a mother, wife, strategist, problem solver, business consultant, partner & advisor, employee & customer experience champion, people & culture advocate, online business coach, HR leader, home decor & organisation enthusiast, yoga lover and now, a tea drinker.
Her mission is to help startups and small businesses to grow and scale by transforming their employee and customer experience into something unique, exciting and extraordinary with the ultimate aim of future proofing organisations and creating organisational impact.
Her vision is to inspire the next generation of servant and transformational leaders and, change the world, one business and leader at a time - follow her quest and journey here!