Studies have shown that up to 82% of people will experience imposter syndrome in their lifetime. But despite it being so widespread, so many of us don’t get what it means. And how are we supposed to combat it if we don’t have a full understanding of what it is? Well fear not, we have athlete mindset coach Misty Buck on hand to give us all a lesson on what imposter syndrome is, how to spot it and how we can work through it.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is what it says on the tin. It’s that underlying uneasiness or feeling that you’re an imposter. At your work, in your life or in your accomplishments. Misty talks about the feelings or beliefs attached to it, “It’s when you feel like a fraud because you don’t feel that you deserve the success you have…You might feel that your success is pure luck or that you’re only really good at one thing and your employer is going to figure that out.”
And it can show up in any area of your life, whether that’s at work, in your relationships or, as Misty knows all too well in sport.
Linking sportspeople and business
Misty makes her living by working with high-level athletes. Helping them to optimise their mindset for performance and longevity of their mental wellbeing. And imposter syndrome is one of the key areas she sees come up time and time again with her clients, “One thing we see with athletes is that they’re always pushed and trained to be better…the problem with that is that it doesn’t always turn off. And so in other areas of your life, you might start to think that you’re not good enough. In other words, whatever you do, it’s not enough and that can lead you to feel inadequate and have tremendous self-doubt.”
It’s this same narrative that can often be mirrored in the workplace. We’re on a continual ladder of self-betterment and competition. And whilst this can be the push that some need to thrive, it can spill out into other areas of your life. Spreading self-doubt into every avenue of your life and undercutting any of your achievements. That feeling of not being enough or deserving is insidious - eventually leading to self-restriction, fear and anxiety.
For an athlete, it might hold them back from training. Restrict them from stepping outside of their comfort zone. Or put them off from entering a career-altering competition.
For someone in the workplace, it might restrict you from looking for a better-suited role. Put you off asking for a well-deserved break or pay risk. Or it could affect other aspects of your lifestyle too.
Keeping your imposter syndrome in check
Now we can see clearly how imposter syndrome can affect all of our lives and minds, how do you manage it? Misty had some great strategies she uses with her clients to overcome that pesky negative voice.
Misty’s FAST method
“The FAST method is something I created to help you move through the emotions and move forward past them,” Misty says. Running through the steps characterised by the acronym can help you break out of an imposter syndrome cycle.
- Fully present and compassionate: coming into the room and present moment. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the way you do but feel grateful you caught it.
- Acknowledge and accept: name exactly what you’re feeling (anxious, worried, like a fraud) and accept that’s where you are right now. Acceptance is key to letting go.
- Speak it out: either talking to someone beforehand (with a coach or therapist) or to yourself in the moment out loud, in your head or a journal. This step digs into why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Question why you might feel nervous, for example. It might be a signal that you care about the work you’re doing, have been burnt before by a previous role or have layered on really high expectations of yourself.
- Take it from there: now you understand why you’re feeling this way, ask yourself what you need. Is it 5 minutes to recalibrate, a break to give you some thinking space or some positive affirmations? Give yourself what you need without hesitation.
Refocus on your accomplishments
Misty points out that when we’re feeling a sense of imposter syndrome, we often focus on what we haven’t done and theareas we need to improve on. The parts of us that pale in comparison to others we’re comparing ourselves to. When in fact just a switch of perspective by focusing on what we have achieved can help us to view ourselves in a different light. Write down all of your achievements - rational facts, feedback and pieces of work you’ve smashed. These can bolster those ‘not good enough’ feelings - providing a rational clap back to the negative imposter syndrome voice in your head.
Tap into your emotions
Misty gives us an insight into how to tap into emotions and stop them from developing into imposter syndrome, “Talk to somebody and give yourself the space to be really still. Because often when those emotions come up we have a habit of either burying that emotion deep. Thinking that we can’t feel what we’re feeling, that we have to be confident. Or, we get totally consumed by the feeling and off track. Emotional energy has to go somewhere so learning how to acknowledge and manage your emotions can benefit all areas of your life.” Regularly having moments of stillness and contemplation gives us space to accept and question our feelings when needed. Moving through them to recognise the roots of our innermost beliefs about ourselves and how to move forward.
Accept yourself as a whole person
“You are a complete person - focusing on the fact that you are a complete person regardless of what do or that you don’t do is empowering. And that mindset can help you prevent or overcome imposter syndrome”, Misty posits. So many of us base our worth on what we perceive ourselves as achieving when we are enough regardless of this. Accepting yourself, your mistakes and your accomplishments are all as equally important.
No one should feel like they are an imposter in any aspect of their lives. So we hope this journal helped to give you (or someone around you) some insight into how to overcome these common feelings. You can read and watch more of Misty's content over on her website. Be sure to watch Misty’s full PepTalk, check it out on-demand on The Weekly. Or, to book a mind-blowing session for your team get in touch.