The boss asks you to attend a meeting in her place. At first, you were pleased, but as the meeting room fills up, you realize that you are the youngest and least experienced person there. You’re an impostor.
You spent years finishing your professional degree as a therapist. You landed the agency job you wanted, and now you are sitting across from a very troubled client. All of a sudden, you have that nagging thought that you’re not qualified to be a therapist. You’re an impostor.
You want to be your own boss. You have spent weeks developing your business plan and completing the application for a small business loan. The loan officer has just told you that your application was approved. He is shaking your hand. You are shocked. You keep thinking, “Doesn’t he know I’m not a real businesswoman? I’m an impostor.”
Almost everyone has a periods where they lack confidence. This usually happens when you are thrown into an unfamiliar situation or when you have crossed a threshold of some sort — finished a degree, started a new job, been promoted to a leadership position, or selected for an honor. You might think of it as a rite of passage or as first day jitters. It should be temporary, and the feeling of being an impostor should decrease as your experience and confidence increase.
If, however, the feeling of being an impostor persists, it may require a bit of analysis. Do you actually have the skills needed to do the job or project? If not, can you acquire them online or get some advice from a trusted colleague? Or is it time to find a confidential mentor who is outside your place of employment?
Will a quick skills assessment help? For example, you may not be as old or as experienced as the other meeting attendees, but, as a recent graduate, you may have the most current knowledge about the subject. Perhaps you have yet to run your small business, but your plans and loan application were good enough for the bank to give you the money. Or you were chosen over 12 other candidates for the therapist’s or supervisor’s job. Obviously, your boss thinks you have what it takes.
Most importantly, recognize and stop negative self-talk. When you hear yourself saying, “I’m an impostor,” take a moment to examine that thought and then discard it. Replace it with a more confident statement. With a little practice, you can keep that impostor syndrome under control and project the image of the confident professional that you actually are.