Thursday October 12, 2023

Guest blog: Sarah Wilson, Leadership Coach

Sarah Wilson, leadership coach and guest speaker, started coaching in 2016 and is now supporting care industry professionals with their mental health across Redcar and Cleveland.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing Sarah’s tips and advice. First up we have Sarah’s top tips on managing the threats of imposter syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome has become such a “buzz phrase” but that’s because it’s so recognisable. So many people experience specific anxieties around their work and it’s exhausting. Here’s how to combat it

Take a moment to consider how often you catch yourself worrying or thinking negatively about something. That’s just your conscious mind. Multiply it by 10,000 for your unconscious mind. And then it’s playing like white noise in the background, on extended replay. That’s the level of damage it does.

Imposter syndrome refers to a consistent feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt, despite evidence of your accomplishments and abilities. When you believe you are not as competent as others perceive, you live in fear of being exposed as a “fraud” in your achievements.

It has an impact on your life, holistically, even if it is generally prevalent at work:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: you doubt your abilities and feel unworthy of success. It prevents you from recognising your true potential.
  2. Difficult relationships: your perceptions, which started in the workplace, now bleed into other areas of your life. You struggle with relationships with others and feel unable to contribute meaningfully.
  3. Being risk averse: success is not in your comfort zone. If you are reluctant to step outside your comfort zone and take risks, you are unlikely to enjoy the success you desire which prevents you from achieving your potential.
  4. Stress and anxiety: the pressure to be perfect or consistently achieve when you do not believe this is possible, takes a massive toll on your mental and physical wellbeing. Perfection is subjective and isn’t sustainable.
  5. Dismissing wins: despite your hard work and achievements, it may cause you to downplay or dismiss your successes.
  6. Opportunities: you may turn down opportunities such as additional responsibilities, line management or a promotion because your overwhelming fear is that someone else may expose you as being “inadequate”. It’s hindering your career progression and you may end up feeling “stuck” in your current role and resentful towards yourself and/or others as a result
  7. Paranoia: you start to think that everyone else also perceives you as inadequate and hyper focus on people’s interactions with you to “evidence” your thoughts.
  8. Intuition quietens: our intuition is incredibly powerful, but the more you feel like an imposter, the less you trust your intuition to make important decisions about your life. You play small and quieter and then wonder “is this it?”
  9. Procrastination: you begin to put off completing tasks because you believe you cannot do them well (or perfectly). Your motivation to get your work done becomes lower and you may even find yourself in formal processes because you are not doing your current role to the expected level.

Combatting imposter syndrome is not about pushing the negative feelings away. There are some key things that you can do to help yourself but there is a caveat. The desire to make a change must be greater than the fear of the challenge to do so. Making a change is often uncomfortable and you need to recognise that it’s not always easy to do.

Here are my top tips to help you:

  1. Self-awareness – to make change you need to catch yourself in imposter syndrome through your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and language. Write out a list for each of these categories so you can start to be aware of when you are allowing imposter syndrome
  2. Alternative truths – when you catch those negative thoughts, write them out and then, for each one come up with an alternative truth. It means something that isn’t unbelievable but is kinder and healthier e.g. “I’m rubbish at presentations” becomes “Presentations make me feel uncomfortable but I’m willing to work on it”.
  3. Self-compassion – you didn’t choose this pathway, it would have been a slow deterioration of thought processes. Be kind to yourself. Getting cross and frustrated at yourself only prolongs the issue
  4. Mistakes – be okay with making mistakes but pick yourself back up and learn from them in order to move on. You grow more from making mistakes than from getting things perfect
  5. Celebrate you – celebrating accomplishments and growth allows you to build on past achievements because you are filling your “evidence bank” of proof that you are succeeding. Every day, before you go to bed list all your wins no matter how small and watch the list grow.
  6. Seek professional support – having a coach to support you whilst you make that change is really helpful. They act as your cheerleader through the difficulty, pick you up when you trip over, encourage, support and are non-judgemental. We can also see the root cause and help with that as well as the symptoms of imposter syndrome.

Remember, you are not alone in experiencing this, and many successful individuals have faced it at some point. It’s okay to seek help and remember that self-worth is not determined solely by external achievements. Embrace your journey of growth, celebrate your accomplishments, and be kind to yourself as you work towards your goals.