Watching the Oscars last weekend and the various winners coming up on stage to make their acceptance speeches, I found myself thinking about Michelle Pfeiffer who I had been watching in Frankie and Johnny the previous evening.
While Michelle has been nominated for an Oscar three times, she has never actually won one, although she has won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe during her career to date. At the peak of her career she was an A list actress, a superstar in the world of acting, and it was at the height of her fame that she came out with the following quote;
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.”
She’s not alone in having these thoughts; here are Kate Winslet’s thoughts on her acting career;
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me — all these things. I’m fat; I’m ugly… “
How can 2 award winning actresses, widely regarded as among the best in their field, believe such things about themselves? These beliefs are surprisingly common and are known as the “Imposter Syndrome”.
The Imposter Syndrome describes how people suffer from the feeling that they are imposters and they do not belong where they are and they don’t deserve what they have accomplished through their own talent and hard work. Instead they tend to attribute any success they have to luck, help from others, timing or the ability to fool others into thinking they are smarter than they really are.
Unless they learn to deal with this self doubt, people suffering from the Imposter Syndrome will sell themselves short, become risk averse and will hold themselves back from achieving as much as they could.
So how can you break this thought process and accept the skills you have? Here are 6 tips on dealing with the Imposter Syndrome:
1. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, it doesn’t mean you are.
2. Recognise and accept your strengths. Instead of blaming luck or others when something goes well for you, accept you have played the major part in the success you achieve. Be proud of what you have done. If you don’t believe in yourself why should others?
3. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of constantly beating yourself up for making mistakes learn from them, put them behind you and move on.
4. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental record that starts playing in situations that trigger your Imposter feelings. When you start a new job for example, instead of thinking, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels awkward in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”
5. Visualise success. Professional athletes spend time before an event picturing themselves succeeding and getting a sense of the feelings they will have when they reach their goals. The successful people in sports and business don’t think in terms of failure and defeat, expect success and you are far more likely to achieve it. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start pushing yourself. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build.
6. Keep a journal. Write down what you do. It doesn’t have to be war and peace, just a note of the tasks you have completed, the challenges you have faced, how you felt before during and after. This will build up a dossier for you and act as a reminder for you of just what you are capable of the next time you encounter self doubt.
Do you ever feel like a fake?
When do you feel like that?
How have you tried to deal with these feelings in the past?
What could you do differently in the future?
Who said what….
1) “I just never know if I’m going to pull it off, I have terrible grave concerns about my own ability.” Matt Damon