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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

A really rubbish guide to 'Imposter Syndrome'​ - Jamie Forsyth

5 minutes to go You idiot Jamie! ….. how long did you think you could keep this up for?

4 minutes to go There’s still time to back out……. a cold? No! too ‘Covidy’ ……. your favourite Auntie is sick? Pathetic!!!

3 minutes 25 seconds to go You are going to crash and burn … you are literally going to stand there and burn in your own skin

2 minutes 17 seconds to go Nobody cares if you’ve been to prison you idiot, there are way more interesting people than you that have been to prison. Christ, there are millions more interesting people who haven’t been to prison.

2 minutes 10 seconds to go *** googles how to fake a heart attack***

1 minute 36 seconds to go 1.3 million people in the UK have bi-polar Forsyth, NO ONE CARES about yours. Why would they?’ ‘Do you really think they are gonna believe that an ex-con with bipolar is capable of supporting a business with their wellbeing?

1 minute 12 seconds to go You know they only gave you this job to ‘tick a box

1 minute to go Did you really think are this stupid?

56 seconds to go Don’t trip up you moron, at least make it to the stage before you disappoint everyone

54 seconds to go *** googles how to walk up 3 steps***

20 seconds to go ‘Shit! Shit! Shit!

10 seconds to go ‘Welcome to the stage …. Jamie Forsyth

5 seconds to go ‘You’re an Imposter’

I’d love to say that this thought process is a rare one for me. I’d love to say that I spend most of my days believing in my ability to help and support those around me and I’d love to say that the daily positive feedback I get around my role as a ‘Wellbeing Coach’ makes me believe in my capabilities. But the truth is it’s not rare and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t feel out of my depth or that I shouldn’t be in the amazing position that I am in.

Yes, there are days when I feel like I’ve helped someone when I have created some great content, heck there have been days over the years when I know I have potentially saved someone’s life. But all that matters not, because for every one sense of achievement, there are ten senses of inadequacy and/or failure.

A person with impostor syndrome has:

A sense of being a fraud (TICK) Fear of being discovered (TICK) Difficulty internalising their success (TICK)

I think that I’ve always felt this way about most aspects of my life. Where this stems from I don’t really know, but I’m sure it's a factor of a lot of things, from my parents divorcing, to serving a prison sentence and learning to function with Bi-Polar Disorder.

There are clearly times in my life, and everyone else’s for that matter, where waves of those three feelings are perfectly natural. A good example of this is the initial period when starting a new job or gaining promotion, something that I have experienced recently and if I’m honest, was probably the reason for writing this article. I would think that there are very few people who go into a new job without pangs of anxiety and self-doubt before wanting to make a good impression and to prove to new colleagues that they deserve to be in that position. In fact, self-doubt can be a tool we use to help us consider our ability and our achievements, allowing us to re-focus and excel. It’s when these feelings of self-doubt become overwhelming despite evidence to the contrary, potentially having a detrimental effect on day-to-day life, that we start to have a problem.

Some of the great achievers, in their individual fields, struggle with those intrusive, negative thoughts processes.

“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler” Albert Einstein

“I don’t know whether other authors feel it, but I think quite a lot do- that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not, because even nowadays, I do not quite feel as though I am an author.” Agatha Christie

“If I’m told I am doing a good job, I am achieving and helping those around me, I don’t only doubt myself but those motives of the person informing me. It can become a vicious circle of uncertainty and scepticism.” Jamie Forsyth (neither great nor a leader in his field) There are so many more leaders across their industry’s that form this Imposter group, so next time you’re having self-doubt then rest assured you’re not alone. So why do this motley crew of “phonies” feel the way they do and do these feelings manifest from the same place in each individual? Dr Valerie Young analysed previous research on Imposter Syndrome and found that specific subgroups existed. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, she discusses the different types of imposter syndrome: The Soloist - They don’t like to ask for help, so when they do, they feel like a failure or a fraud.

The Perfectionist – The high expectations they place on themselves means that even a small mistake will make them feel like a complete failure.

The Superwoman/Superman – The pressure that they put on themselves means they do longer hours, hardly ever take days off and simply have to succeed in every aspect of life in order to prove they are the “real deal.” If you feel like this one could apply to you then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team? Do find when you are off work that it is time wasted and you get stressed when you’re not working?

  • Do you sacrifice the things you love to concentrate on work?

  • Do you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?

The Natural Genius – Because they are so used to things coming easily when something is too hard or they don’t master it on the first try, they feel shame and self-doubt. The Expert - They continuously seek out additional certifications or training because they feel as though they will never know enough to be truly qualified. Most of you reading this now will feel that you fall into at least one category, but I’m sure that we can all see aspects of every category in our lives at one point or another.

It’s harder now to rid the feelings of Imposter Syndrome in 2021 than ever before. The modern world we live in has fuelled the fires of doubt. And a lot of this can be attributed to unrealistic expectations we set ourselves due to viewing everyone else’s highlight reel on social media. From the perfect family holiday photos on Facebook to the unrealistically positive outlooks and achievements on your LinkedIn feed.

The pressure to appear successful, to have that validation from our peers adds to the feelings of fraud. We know that five seconds on either side of that perfect photo is complete carnage. The tears, blood, sweat and crippling self-doubt before your successful work project are left out of the “look what I’ve achieved post”.

So how do we deal with Imposter syndrome? Well, Lindsay Kolowich Cox believes that there are 9 ways to deal with Imposter Syndrome:

1. Know the signs.

We often overlook the signs of impostor syndrome that come up in our day-to-day lives. However, recognising these signs is the first step toward overcoming them.

2. Know you're not alone.

When you have impostor syndrome, some of the most important encouragement comes from realizing how many hugely successful people, both male and female, have built amazing careers even while regularly coping with it.

3. Distinguish humility and fear. There's taking humility in your hard work and accomplishments, and then there's feeling overcome with fear because of them.

4. Let go of your inner perfectionist. Perfectionism only feeds into your impostor syndrome. When you feel like a fraud, it's usually because you're comparing yourself to some *perfect* outcome that's either impossible or unrealistic.

5. Be kind to yourself. Take the pressure off yourself and stop trying to be the expert on day one. Negative self-talk is a bad habit, and it can heavily influence our stress and anxiety levels.

6. Track and measure your successes. When you feel like an impostor, one of the hardest things to grasp is how much of a role you have in your own successes. You might default them to luck or others' hard work, when in fact, your own work, knowledge, and preparation had a lot to do with it.

7. Talk about it with a mentor and your manager. No one should suffer in silence. Sharing your thoughts and experiences with someone else will make you better equipped to deal with your impostor syndrome

8. Say "yes" to new opportunities. It's impossible to say "yes" to everything, especially when you're feeling stressed or spread thin. But it's all too common for people who have impostor syndrome to turn down career-making opportunities because they don't feel like they'd do a good job.

9. Embrace the feeling, and use it. It's really hard to get rid of impostor syndrome completely -- especially if you've had it for years and years. why the best angle from which to tackle your impostor syndrome isn't getting rid of it completely; it's stopping it from hindering your success. I’d love to say that the more I achieve in my life the less I will suffer the niggling of `imposter syndrome, but I don’t think that will ever truly happen. I think too much has happened in my life that I could deem as a failure, or as me letting myself down. However, I’m aware I can do great work, I’m aware my experiences have helped others but I’m also aware I am no more capable than the others around me so why should I get plaudits for doing something so human?

I know that having this syndrome actually helps me achieve more in my personal life and work life and to be honest if I felt like I was the best in my field then I fear I would lose sight of why I do what I do.

If I can wake up in the morning, be a great dad, good friend and son, help someone when they need it, learn from my mistakes and do my job to the best of my abilities then I don’t think self-doubt is such a bad thing after all…… ……. but who's going to read what I’ve got to say and think it’s any good anyway?

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