An Article by Wellness Contributor and TDC Developmental Coach Louise Walker
Have you ever doubted whether you were “good enough” to be running your business or to do the job you do? Do you sometimes believe you are pretending to be experienced or talented enough to service your clients, and that you may be found out as an imposter?
If you’ve ever felt like an imposter at what you do or at work, understand that you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of self-doubt and a belief that you're not as competent as others. If you experience Imposter Syndrome as a business owner in the design and architecture industries, some areas this behaviour may show up for you could include:
Pricing - questioning your worth around quoting your services for a figure that reflects the level of work and expertise that you know the job will demand
Capabilities - feeling conflicted around whether you’re fully competent to fulfil the brief you’ve been given
Creativity - doubting that the ideas you’ve put forward are good enough/ unique enough
Problem solving capabilities - doubting your own potential to handle and navigate challenges on the job as and when they arise
A study by KPMG in 2022 showed that up to 75% of people will experience Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lifetime, despite their accomplishments and success at work and the level of their education. Another study by InnovateMR in 2021 also revealed that females are more likely to experience imposter syndrome and that 53% of working women between the ages of 25-34 years are likely to be currently experiencing this self-doubting pattern. Even so, Imposter Syndrome has been found to be a pattern that can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, role, or level of experience, from a designer just out of college to an architect running a highly successful and profitable business.
In this article, we’ll explore how we create imposter syndrome for ourselves and how it manifests. We’ll also look at ways that you can change your relationship to these self-doubting imposter thoughts and feelings and bring in higher awareness when you’re exhibiting this pattern of behaviour. This deeper level of understanding will enable you to begin to free yourself from these thoughts and allow them to be less challenging and overwhelming.
How Does Imposter Syndrome Manifest?
If you think and feel like an “Imposter” then some of the following may run for you:
Despite being high-performing you struggle to experience success on the inside
Judging yourself for your abilities to do your job/ meet the needs of your clients – and worry about being “found out” as a phoney
Creating anxiety for yourself by projecting into the future and running worst case scenarios
Overworking and overachieving in an attempt to feel “good enough”
Feeling fearful that you won't live up to expectations of your clients
Constantly comparing yourself to others which is very common in our current world of social media and the proliferation of “perfect” images
Changing Your Thinking
The first thing to understand is that imposter syndrome is not rooted in objective reality. The self-doubt pattern of Imposter Syndrome exists only in our heads, in our individual perception of ourselves. Our self-perception is formed by past conditioning and past experiences. The good news is that we have the power and potential to change how we think and how we experience reality.
For the rest of this article, we’ll examine four ways to identify Imposter Syndrome, and provide techniques to reframe your thinking.
1 – Become highly aware of thoughts and beliefs driving self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome
Firstly remember that any beliefs you have are simply just thoughts, and not ‘the truth in reality’. Your thoughts are a pulse of energy representing the activity of your mind. And a belief is a thought that you are choosing to give value to.
Often our beliefs exist in our subconscious mind so when we are not fully aware of them, they can dominate our day-to-day experience. The good news is that you don’t have to be governed by your thoughts. To reframe your self-doubting beliefs you have to first be aware of what beliefs are running for you to enable you to get objective, so that you can see through them.
Consider that you may be doubting yourself based on a past experience that you haven’t let go of. For example, perhaps years ago you made a mistake at work and felt shame around that incident. Now you’re unconsciously trying to protect yourself from that happening again, so you run a belief “you’re not good enough” in an attempt to make you work harder, to protect yourself from having to go through that experience again. However, this is a self-sabotaging strategy that is not protecting you and is keeping the Imposter Syndrome in place. Similarly, if you come from a family that values achievement highly, this belief can be passed onto you and feed into feelings of inadequacy and constant need to prove your worth.
Tip: Become highly aware of the internal voice which tells you that you’re ‘not good enough.’ Sit quietly and observe with a quiet mind. Question where this self-talk comes from and try to understand the intention behind the thought pattern. Journal what you notice and consider what made you start to doubt yourself. Are these thoughts based in objective truth, or are they a construct of insecurity?
2 - Reframe old ways of thinking
Reframing is about changing the way we perceive something. Once a belief has been recognised we now have the choice to either keep holding onto these limiting beliefs or reframe to a more positive and productive way of thinking.
How we frame (ie: think about) a situation is the way that we experience it, whether we’re aware of it or not. We have a powerful opportunity to reframe our thought patterns to serve us better.
An example might be going from:
“I’m a total fraud, and everyone’s going to find out.”
“Past clients have been really happy with my work and I’ve studied this subject so I know way more than they do in this area.”
Tip: Ensure that the new frame is realistic, and is one that you fully connect with. Be committed to the reframe without judgement and witness how life changes when you give yourself permission to choose a different perspective.
3 – Catch mind reading
Mind reading is when you think you know what others think of you (or a situation), which is common if you run self-doubting beliefs.
An example might be that you deliver a fee proposal to a prospective client and don’t hear back from them the next day. Your mind-read may be “The client thinks my fee is too expensive, so I must have overpriced my quote.” In this instance, you’re defaulting to the worst case scenario and believe you know what the client is thinking, based on your own self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome.
Alternatively, if you can reframe your thinking and become inquisitive about why the client may be hesitating to sign up immediately. There could be a multitude of reasons that they haven’t responded to you in a timely manner.
Tip: Now you’re aware of mind reading, identify when this occurs for you. In those moments take a deep breath, pause, notice your thoughts and question whether they are based in objectivity or are driven by feelings of self-doubt. Instead of thinking the client believes your quote is too expensive, call them to ask for feedback on your proposal. You may be pleasantly surprised by their response.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
The perfect images designers portray on social media can cause you to doubt your abilities and form belief patterns that don’t serve you well. When you compare yourself to others in the industry, gently remind yourself that you’re viewing a “perception” of them, not what’s actually happening behind the scenes within their business.
Tip: Switch your attention from ‘out there’ to ‘in here’ and focus your energy and attention on working on yourself and your own business. Instead of comparing yourself to the perceived accomplishments and perfection of others, track your progress according to the goals and intentions you have set for your own growth, both personally and professionally.
Working in the design industry
There will often be challenges to navigate in the design industry due to the multiple stakeholders to manage on jobs. When handling the different personalities and demands of all those involved in a project (such as: clients, builders, trades, manufacturers, other design professionals) it’s important to maintain an inner sense of strength and stability, and to trust in your own judgment and choices.
It’s also critical to remember that you are responsible for your thoughts, feelings and actions. A strong sense of self is needed to stay centred and calm on the inside when external circumstances are experienced as stressful - this is a developmental skill that can be fostered by working with an experienced coach. In addition, having a regular practice such as meditation or yoga allows you to feel a deeper connection with yourself and supports you to stay calm and breathe through potentially triggering situations.
Freedom from the imposter syndrome
Your growth and development around Imposter Syndrome is about becoming aware of what you were previously only subject to: your beliefs and patterns of thinking and feeling.
The points in this article each ask you to self-enquire, to step back and gain the space to see what’s actually happening for you, to integrate the learning, release the old view, and grow by moving on. Whilst working on becoming more aware in this way, also stay witness to the opposite affliction of overconfidence, which can also cause many problems. Remember too that asking for help where required is really important and also represents a sign of your maturity and is a responsible way to practice.
This kind of developmental work is powerful when facilitated by an experienced coach to support you to uncover patterns that have been unconsciously running and holding you back.
TDC Developmental Coach Louise Walker will be running a complimentary group coaching session for TDC members on Mon July 10th 4.30pm - 6pm. This session will be designed to dive deeper into self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome and will include live group coaching. Join our the Free Group Coaching Session or enquire about 1:1 Developmental Coaching with Louise.
Article by Louise Walker, Developmental Coach at TDC.
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