How Parents Can Beat Imposter Syndrome | By Ian Child, author of ‘Your Own Personal Time Machine’
Many parents find themselves in the grip of Imposter Syndrome – a persistent inability to realistically assess their suitability for a role. It’s estimated that around 70% of the population is afflicted, with some groups being more prone than others, such as entrepreneurs and high achievers but it can also come crashing into the worlds of parents, leading to negative feelings and self-doubt, plus it can also be linked to anxiety and depression.
Sufferers feel like one day someone is going to tap them on the shoulder and tell them they’ve been rumbled, that everyone has realised they’re a bit of a fraud and they don’t really have the skills and competence to be able to raise children. They feel that any success that they have had has been purely accidental.
Imposter Syndrome sufferers can experience increased anxiety and stress, a lack of confidence, and a fear of taking opportunities or moving outside of their comfort zones.
However, Imposter Syndrome only exists in your head. We suffer from it because we have an innate fear of failure, and we’re also acutely aware of our own doubts and shortcomings, yet when we look around us, we only see the success and confidence of others, which makes us feel like an outlier.
Social media does not help. We see airbrushed versions of other people’s lives; the only warts-and-all view of somebody we ever get is of ourselves. We know all too well that underneath our carefully polished social media accounts there lies a person who has had their fair share of failures and screw-ups. Not to mention all those terrible photos of you and yours that you could NEVER post because they’re so awful. In other words, we perceive everyone else as being ‘perfect’, but we KNOW that we are not. We’re the fraudulent card in the pack.
However, no one is about to tap you on the shoulder. But you do need to do something to stop yourself suffering from Imposter Syndrome. While there’s no magic pill you can take to make it disappear, you can do quite a few things to make life a lot easier for yourself. Here are a few Imposter Syndrome coping strategies:
For some reason, we fail to acknowledge that other people feel exactly the same as we do. We need to appreciate that everyone else has the same screw-ups and failures; just because they’re not shouting about the potty training disasters in their house, or the times they give in on screen time limits, or not having a clue how to help with homework, doesn’t mean they’re feeling any different from you.
We usually totally overestimate how skilful or successful other people are. The reality is that everyone else feels just as insecure as you do. There’s a great quote by the ladies’ fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who said: You always look at the woman across the room. And you think, “The woman across the room is so confident, so poised and so put together, and so on.” But that woman is looking at YOU. And for her, YOU are the woman across the room. Everybody’s the same. It’s just a big waste of time to be insecure.”
Create a list that you can refer to when you have moments of doubt, one that reminds you of how great you are and that other people think you’re great too. This may seem simplistic, but many sufferers swear by it as it helps reframe their minds and evaporate those less helpful thoughts.
We’re not very good at celebrating our successes generally, and it’s a real missed opportunity. Celebrating success helps dispel thoughts that we’re undeserving and gives us confidence in our abilities. Also, make a point of celebrating both large and small wins. Imposter Syndrome sufferers tend to move on too quickly and treat wins with relief rather than celebrating them.
Those fraudulent feelings can all too easily prevent you from taking action. Success in anything only exists outside your comfort zone, so you need to take action – feel the fear and do it anyway , even if your head is full of self-doubt. As your comfort zone expands, have confidence in the fact that your levels of anxiety will reduce automatically.
If 100% is perfection, you must stop thinking that only doing a job to 99% is a failure. Appreciate that other people may only be capable of doing the same job to 70%, so achieving 80% will be good enough, and 90% will be better than most. It’s not about lowering the bar – it’s simply reframing how well you’ve done and what you’ve achieved. Also, most jobs don’t need to be done to 100%. Perfectionists can spend the same time again getting a job from 80% to 100%, whereas they could have used that time to do a second task to 80% and get much more done.
We often see other people’s successes but not their flops, whereas we always see our own failures. This gives us a poor perspective and makes us think of ourselves as being less capable in comparison. Opening up with others can help demonstrate that you’re no different and that everyone has the same issues as you do. Ironically, it can often be easier to open up to strangers than those who know you well.
Samuel Beckett once said, ‘Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ Failure is not a sign of being rubbish; it’s a sign that you’re trying to achieve something, and you need to give yourself credit for this.
Fear can often be the prevailing emotion when it comes to Imposter Syndrome, but you need to put it back in its box and look at the situation through a different lens. Instead of thinking that you are about to be found out, shift to acknowledging that you may not know all the answers right now, but also knowing that you are smart enough to figure things out. It’s a far more empowering way of looking at your situation.
This can give you more confidence and help you see that your thoughts are irrational – particularly when you talk to someone you believe has a good opinion of you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings about Imposter Syndrome with others – you may find they’re experiencing the same issues as you.
Ian Child is a former corporate leader, co-founder of the training company property CEO (propertyceo.co.uk) and the author of ‘Your Own Personal Time Machine, a guide to getting your life back, available exclusively from amazon.co.uk. in paperback and e-book
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