I speak to a lot of women in my line of work – be it women at different levels in their career or those from different cultures and nationalities. I have come to the realisation that regardless of where you are from or what kind of role you have, the feeling that you’re a fraud is rampant across women. Ironically, it seems that the more successful a woman is, the more she feels this way.
Imposter syndrome is real, and it can creep up on you at any point in your career. That shrinking feeling while sitting in an important meeting where everyone is speaking with conviction can make you feel like you don’t deserve your role. ‘What am I doing here in this meeting?’ ‘They’re soon going to learn that I don’t deserve this job.’ ‘I am just pretending, they will know.’ I remember when I first created WILD, a platform for women to come together. Having created a small network of 15 women and then losing my job and suffering a breakdown, my confidence was shattered, I had anxiety, and I was full of fear.
Eventually, however, I was able to rebuild my life from the inside out and now work with other women to do the same. What I have realised since then is that success is actually an inside job. To evolve and transform, we need to do the inner work. This is a combination of healing the wreckage of our past, facing fears head on, and breaking through limiting beliefs that hold us back. This is the bedrock to success.
Having worked on these issues myself, I set out to create WILD – Women in Leadership Deliver. I will never forget its first event back in July 2018. I was hounded by an incessant voice. ‘Who are you to do this? Who are you to stand and feel that you can inspire other women?’ Having discussed this feeling with my own coach, he quickly reminded me, “Emma, you’re someone who has already built a very successful network and been through so much. Just be you, stay true, and share your story.”
And that’s exactly what I did.
I was well within my rights and fully qualified to be standing there, telling my journey of transformation. Yet, that nagging voice, the all-pervasive inner critic sat on my shoulder telling me that I am an imposter and had no place to be there. You would think that a female CEO – mind you, only a mere 3% of CEOs are women – would have it all figured out and wouldn’t feel anything of this sort. Yet, I had a client once who was a CEO and came to me with issues of feeling like a fraud. Being the leader of a business meant that she had no one to confide in and share her feelings. After all, she’s who the whole company looks up to. The effects of this were damaging.
The woman felt an overriding sense of guilt and shame in addition to feeling like an imposter. After working closely together, we got to the root cause of some of the issues, one being something I in fact had faced – being left out of a group at school and then feeling not good enough. As an advocate for gender equality, I often get asked what holds women back the most and my answer is always ourselves! I mean, it’s one thing playing the blame game (that the company we work for doesn’t value women or offer an inclusive culture), but when it comes down to it, what are you doing about you? How are you dealing with those feelings of not being good enough or feeling like a fraud?
I spoke to a woman the other day. She was a senior leader for an engineering company, and clearly intelligent and qualified at her job. She explained that she is the only woman there and gets scared to speak up or voice her ideas as, deep down, she feels that her contribution is not valid. I told her she needs to understand that she wouldn’t be in that role and have a seat at the table if she wasn’t good enough or qualified. However, if she doesn’t start speaking up, she could easily lose her seat at the table. It’s time to learn how to speak up and with conviction when you do.
Here are three powerful tips to stop feeling like a fraud:
- Trust Your Skills: Have confidence in the fact that you’re in the role you are in because you are worthy of being there. You wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place if you weren’t, therefore, know you deserve to take up space.
- Believe in You: Cultivating a positive mindset and changing negative self-talk is crucial in overcoming imposter syndrome. At any given moment, you have the choice to change your thoughts. Pivot from negative self-talk to new empowering thoughts such as, ‘I’ve got this!’
- Hone Your Craft: Knowing your subject matter inside out will automatically feed you confidence. You become the go-to person at your workplace. This will add to your credibility and make you feel your ideas and contributions are valid.
One last thing:
Remember, even though you may feel like a fraud on the inside, you can still perform well!
Emma Burdett is the Founder of WILD (Women in Leadership Deliver) network, keynote speaker, and transformational coach. For more of Emma’s invaluable tips on how to get YOU set up for success and beyond in 2022, check out ‘Uncompromised Life! Mind, Body & You’, an event taking place on January 26, 2022, at 25 Hour Hotel from 8:30am to 10:30am. Register here.