We’re now on the final day of a week of blog posts about imposter syndrome. This is what we’ve looked at so far and the subject for this final post:
- Monday – The theory behind it – what it is and how it manifests itself. Read it here
- Tuesday – Where it comes from and how mine started. Read it here
- Wednesday – How it affects me as an author. Read it here
- Thursday – Coping strategies. Read it here
- Friday – Recognising it in others and helping them
Final day! Yay! What a mammoth tome this has turned out to be. If you have made it through all four posts so far, thank you so much. I never intended it to be this long but, as I said yesterday, one of the coping strategies is talking about it and, my goodness, have I talked! I do feel so much better getting it all out in the open. The weight has been lifted. I can move on. If you’re struggling with this yourself, I really hope that the combination of theory and personal experiences have resonated and will help you work on those coping strategies.
I will just point out that I am not qualified or an expert in this stuff but I am a trained and qualified career coach and a career development guidance counsellor so some of the advice does draw on those skills.
Today’s post will be shorter. I promise!
Recognising imposter syndrome in others
If you’ve read the previous posts, you should have a pretty good idea of what imposter syndrome looks like. I’ll remind you here of the three types I demonstrate but I’ll add in the other two.
The perfectionist – believes their work can always be better and focuses on flaws. They want everything to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. They’ll beat themselves up for not achieving the high standards they set. In the workplace, they may struggle with delegation (if you want something doing well, do it yourself!) and could be a micro-manager
The superhero – feels they must push themselves to work as hard as possible to overcome feelings of inadequacy. They work long hours and can focus purely on work to the determinant of hobbies and/or relationships. They feel they have to keep pushing themselves to do more in order to prove their worth
The expert – always trying to learn more and may focus on what they don’t know/can’t do instead of what they do know/can do. They feel there’s always much more to learn and worry about being exposed as a fraud because they’re not experienced or knowledgeable enough to justify their status/position
And here are the two types that don’t resonate with me personally:
The natural genius – they set the bar incredibly high, like a perfectionist, but this type is about speed and ease of completing their goals/tasks. They’ve likely sailed through academia, been told they’re ‘gifted’, ‘smart’, ‘brightest in the family’ and are used to excelling with little effort. Imposter syndrome sets in when they find themselves unable to do something quickly and/or effortlessly
The soloist – will avoid asking for help as that indicates their fraudulence. They will struggle on alone because that’s the only way to prove their worth
Recognise any of these traits in others?
How to help those with imposter syndrome
Here’s some general tips for helping others who have it although specific support would depend on which of the types of imposter syndrome they’re demonstrating:
Acknowledge that it’s real and it’s common but it’s different for everyone
As I mentioned on Tuesday, it is estimated that 70% of us will experience imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. If you’ve never experienced it, please don’t dismiss it. It’s a real thing and can be quite debilitating. If you tell the ‘imposter’ they’re being ‘silly’ or words to that effect, you’re only exacerbating their feelings of failure!
If you have experienced it, then you will have some understanding of what it feels like but do bear in mind that yours may have been brief and swiftly dealt with. Your friend/colleague may be having a very different experience affecting them much more deeply. So empathise but don’t assume their experience is the same as yours.
Listen to them
Find out what their experience is like. Empathise. Don’t tell them they’re wrong to feel this way. They very likely know that themselves. If they have put themselves out there and owned up to how they’re feeling, they don’t want you dismissing it. They want you to hear it and accept it and then you can both work out the next steps from there.
Also, if you have felt like this yourself but it wasn’t as strong/was a long time ago/you’ve found ways to deal with it, do make sure you don’t turn this conversation so it’s all about you and not them! Do listen to what they have to say first as it can be really hard to admit to something like this. When it feels appropriate, ask if they’re happy for you to share your experiences.
Ask them questions
Find out more. How does it manifest? How does it hold them back? What do they want to do about it. This is an important point. It has to be about them; not about what you think they should do.
Show them how valued they are
Help them see how amazing their achievements are. For an author, saying something like, “What are you moaning about? I’d kill to be in the Top 20!” is probably not the best approach to take. But saying, “What was the highest position you had before that? Wow! What an amazing jump!” is opening up a more positive conversation. Yes, you maybe would sell your grandmother for a Top 20 position but the issue here is not that the ‘imposter’ isn’t delighted with it. It’s that their inner imposter is not looking at the positive and you can help them do that.
If they’re in the workplace, maybe challenge the long hours. What are they doing in those extra hours that they could do tomorrow instead? If their work genuinely can’t be done in ‘normal’ hours, there’s maybe another issue at hand and they actually have too much work. Not necessarily a failure on their part! They may have taken on more to try and prove their worth, feeling they’d be viewed as a failure or a fraud if they said ‘no’.
Celebrate successes with them
Because an ‘imposter’ tends to focus on the negatives, they usually can’t see the positives and therefore don’t celebrate them. So help them do that.
For an author example, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow hasn’t got as high in the charts as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. Yet (positive mindset here!) However, it has gathered more reviews much more quickly so each of those books carries a different positive.
Remind them of the word ‘yet’
I even used this above. Yet is such a powerful word. You haven’t got to the top of the charts … yet! You haven’t been promoted … yet! You haven’t found love … yet! Encourage them to keep believing and stay positive.
Get them to set a plan and regularly check in
If they’ve shared their challenges with you, chances are they’re ready to work on them so get them to set some commitments – like I did yesterday – as to what they are going to change. This will cover HOW they’re going to change and WHEN they’re going to do this.
A good way to look at this is:
What will you STOP doing?
What will you START doing?
Because it’s no good doing some positive stuff if the negative stuff is continuing!
But don’t just leave them to get on with this as self-doubt is going to kick in and old habits will die hard. Discuss how they’d like you to check in so that it then doesn’t feel like you’re nagging; they’ve given you permission to ask how it’s going and give them a kick up the backside if needed.
As for my next steps…
I’m feeling so much more positive for having shared this. Thank you for ‘listening’. I also had a great conversation with my amazing editor, Nia, on Wednesday. Nia regularly reads my blog (thank you!) and I was able to talk about the humour behind some of my obsessiveness this summer and confirm, as I’ve done previously, what a pleasure it is to work with her and Boldwood. Couldn’t be more different to what I’ve experienced in the past.
The second round of edits on New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow are very limited and I was reassured that I had managed to sort that out after such an initial struggle. We also spoke about some concerns with where to start the third book in the series and Nia had a great suggestion which I’m excited to crack on with.
On top of that, an update on sales, newsletter subscribers, promo plans and what my next contract might look like have given me such a positive boost. I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to spend my days doing what I love. It doesn’t feel like work … until I let imposter syndrome take over. So Imposter Syndrome is banished and I will get the edits on New Arrivals… finished today, take the weekend off, and start afresh on Monday with the NaNoWriMo approach to writing Hedgehog Hollow book 3 and a schedule for writing rather than procrastinating.
I’ll let you all know how I get on. In the meantime, thank you to those who have commented and particularly Eloise who has shared her experiences through the comments. Thank you to Samantha Tonge for letting me use her as a case study yesterday, to my editor Nia for being so amazing and supportive, to my husband for all the hugs and reassurance.
Hang in there and be kind to yourself.