Women Lawyers Division

The Imposter syndrome

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Rachel Brushfield, career strategist and coach, talks us through the basics of Imposter syndrome. 

What is the ‘impostor’ syndrome?

It’s very common, people don’t talk about it and it creates anxiety and unease. It can stop people from promoting their own successes at work. What is the ‘impostor’ syndrome?

It is the feeling that your success has happened by accident, one day it’s going to catch up with you, you will be ‘found out’ and your employer will discover that you are not really as good as they thought you were.

I have coached many people and I can reassure you that EVERYONE suffers from the ‘impostor’ syndrome at some time or other. That includes me! Low self-esteem is common and we all worry about whether we are ‘good enough’ in certain situations if not all. Naturally this is bound to increase when we are worried about losing our job in a tough market and when competition for promotions if employed or consultancy work if self-employed is very high.

How to manage your ‘impostor’

Remind yourself of what you have done to get where you have. You have worked hard, probably done more than you needed, achieved your objectives, perhaps done additional studying, courses or qualifications. You are likely to have developed a personality that is uniquely you and some people, if not everyone, like. Unless you have been living in a cave, chances are you have created a track record for yourself that is overall positive with a few mistakes and learnings along the way - that’s normal!

In coaching we call things like the ‘impostor’ syndrome ‘Gremlins’ - they are the voices of your limiting beliefs that create noisy negative mental chatter and do your head in. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you are going mad! It’s quite normal - we just don’t talk about it. I have got about 7 Gremlins and I discovered a new one the other day too! I’ll have to get a referee up there soon to manage the crowd.

5 tips to keep your ‘impostor’ in check

  1. Remember that you are not alone! Most people suffer from the ‘impostor’ syndrome. I have only met one person who had no limiting beliefs at all - that’s called a fluke/miracle/delusion!
  2. Spend 5 mins at the end of each day reflecting on what’s gone well. If you haven’t been discovered yet, perhaps you can get away with it after all?!
  3. Picture your ‘impostor’ in an over-the-top disguise - it’ll make you laugh and relax you
  4. Put that active imagination of yours to good use - be proactive and think of new ideas to help your employer/for your business to solve business challenges
  5. Create a file and keep in it evidence that you are good at what you do to keep the impostor at bay. Include nice e mails, cards, proof of achievements, good feedback, positive appraisal, reports etc.

Self reflective question

In what specific situations is your ‘impostor’ most likely to make an appearance and what’s the trigger?

Rachel Brushfield, Career strategist and coach


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The Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division supports and advise all women solicitors and aspiring women solicitors, from trainees to retirees, no matter their area of practice.

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