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Managing Imposter Syndrome for Leadership Self-Confidence

Leadership can be an intimidating responsibility. For some leaders, the fear of not meeting expectations can manifest as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a condition characterized by feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and inadequacy. Despite evidence to the contrary, those suffering from imposter syndrome feel like they are merely faking their way through life, and sooner or later, they will be exposed for the frauds they believe themselves to be. As a result, imposter syndrome can profoundly negatively affect one's self-confidence. Fortunately, by learning more about imposter syndrome and its effects on leadership confidence, individuals can improve their mental attitude and become successful leaders.

If you're struggling with imposter syndrome, know you are not alone. We have worked with many highly successful people who have battled (and continue to battle) these same feelings. However, there are things leaders can do to manage imposter syndrome and build self-confidence. Keep reading to learn more about imposter syndrome and overcoming it.

Define imposter syndrome and its symptoms

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological experience in which people can not shake the feeling of being fraudulent or undeserving despite their accomplishments and achievements. It leads to feelings of inadequacy and thoughts that one's success has been due to luck rather than talent or hard work. It can also lead to fear of being exposed for not knowing enough about a topic or failing to take advantage of available opportunities. In addition, symptoms can manifest physically in stress and anxiety, as well as negative self-talk and perfectionism.

Understand how imposter syndrome affects your leadership confidence

Imposter syndrome can be a nagging presence in the lives of many leaders, even those with successful and accomplished careers. This type of self-doubt and insecurity can frequently thwart our chances of achieving more extraordinary things. We may question our abilities and accomplishments to the point that we hold ourselves back from taking the initiative and putting forth our ideas. Feelings of incompetence, undeserved success, and low confidence can lead to us not believing that we can genuinely meet the demands of the tasks before us. Leaders must strive to recognize and confront these negative feelings to feel confident approaching any challenge.

How can we manage imposter syndrome

One of the root causes of imposter syndrome is when we compare ourselves to others. This constant comparison creates a series of doubts and anxieties about our capabilities, leading us to be constantly concerned with being exposed as an "impostor." Additionally, and perhaps even more damagingly, we can sometimes overly focus on specific mistakes or failings rather than celebrating successes. The fear of failure looms large in these moments, further exacerbating feelings of imposter syndrome. To mitigate and manage these experiences, The American Psychological Association provided seven strategies to help leaders experiencing imposter syndrome.

  1. Learn the facts: do your feelings match reality?

  2. Share your feelings: seek feedback and support from trusted allies

  3. Celebrate your successes: don't minimize or neglect the good in your life

  4. Let go of perfectionism: don't lower your standards, but do make your goals realistic and achievable

  5. Cultivate self-compassion: moving from an exclusively external valuation of self-worth (the way others see us and our perceived value to others) and learning to include an internal valuation of self-worth (the way we see ourselves and our inherent value)

  6. Share your failures: normalize perceived failures with trusted allies and turn them into learning opportunities

  7. Accept it: recognize that these feelings are a part of us and may arise periodically

Develop a plan to manage imposter syndrome and build self-confidence

Developing a plan to manage imposter syndrome and build self-confidence effectively is an empowering way to take control of your mental health. By establishing the building blocks of a positive and resilient mindset, you can create a structure that will help you recognize negative patterns, develop greater self-worth, and live life to its fullest potential. Taking gradual steps such as acknowledging personal strengths and identifying areas for growth can be incredibly rewarding in the journey towards greater confidence. Additionally, improving communication with friends and family can also aid in finding relief from self-doubt and developing meaningful relationships that support healthy self-esteem. Finally, with a sustainable plan for managing imposter syndrome, you can push past any feelings of vulnerability to achieve quality success on your terms.

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