There are times when, no matter how well people say you’re doing, you just can’t seem to get over the nagging doubt that you’re not quite good enough for your job. It can range from a slight feeling of anxiety to a crippling sense that you’re somehow fooling everyone into believing that you’re better than you are and that soon you’ll get found out.
This phenomenon was dubbed “imposter syndrome” in the 1970s by researchers at Georgia State University. Whilst it may not ever become this serious, many of us have felt doubt from time to time in our own abilities. If not addressed, these doubts can seriously hold you back in your career. So how do you get your career confidence back?
1. What does ‘success’ mean to you?
Maybe the problem stems from the way you define ‘success’ to yourself.
Many of us believe that the phrase ‘being successful’ is the same as ‘achieving success’, but they can have very different meanings. For example, you may look at your peers and feel that they have “achieved success” when you yourself have not – you feel like you’re still waiting to “make it”.
Try instead to use the phrase “being successful” in relation to both yourself and others – it implies a sense of ongoing achievement, rather than a sense of having attained perfection. This will help to break down the barriers you might have created between how you see others and how you see yourself in terms of levels of attainment.
2. Understand what triggers your feelings of accomplishment
Do you feel your best when you’re given praise publicly? Or when you have a chance to show off your knowledge and skills to your team and/or superiors? Sometimes people only feel like they’ve really achieved something when rewarded with something, be it the equivalent of a gold star, or something more monetary-based such as a bonus. Finding out what it takes to make you feel like you’re doing a good job can be the first step to attaining a long-lasting sense of achievement.
3. Remember that nobody’s perfect
Tempting though it is to imagine that we’re the only ones who are struggling, the reality is that everybody experiences self-doubt from time to time. Accept that sometimes you may make the wrong decision or things might not go the way you wanted or thought but that doesn’t impact on how well you are doing overall. Learning not to let small mistakes shake your confidence in your ability to do your job as a whole will make you a lot happier and more confident.
4. Create a positive mindset
Sometimes, actively listing what you have accomplished in the past can put your achievements into perspective. Take some time to list your successes that you have gained throughout your career.
A good idea might be to sit down with a friend to do this exercise, as they’ll be able to offer up examples you may have forgotten about and will stop you downplaying them. Not only should this give you a definite list of positives to focus on, but it is also a great excuse to update your CV at the same time!
5. “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”
Sometimes in life, you have to fake it until you make it. Emulate the way confident people behave and studies say you’ll start to feel it yourself. However, this does not mean suddenly becoming an aggressive, forceful person. You can exude confidence without changing your personality. For example, once you have decided on a course of action, show conviction in your decision and see it through with energy and a sense of certainty instead of letting your caution show through.
6. Don’t let your mistakes become a millstone
Remember that not every task you take on will have a successful outcome. There will be times when you make mistakes and times when you don’t get the results you hope for, or even expect. Instead of letting these set you back, remind yourself of how much you can learn from the process. Once your mistakes don’t have the same crushing weight, they used to it will be easier to evaluate them objectively and learn from them.
Signs that you could have “fraud syndrome”
You tend to over-work, putting in more hours to avoid people 'finding you out'.
You have difficulties handling praise at work.
You take criticism way too personally.
You feel out of your depth with bigger strategy issues so you tend to avoid them and go for short-term wins.
You procrastinate, blaming time pressures for mistakes instead of taking responsibility for them