Author, consultant and workplace wellbeing expert Andree Funnell explores imposter syndrome
Have you ever felt that there's a part of your personality that you keep to yourself? That, for one reason or another, you don't reveal to other people, as much as sometimes you'd love to let it loose?
Perhaps it's out of fear of judgement. Or it could even be down to the ideals that society has projected onto you about how you should or should not behave. This part of your personality that's hiding within, waiting to be set free is your ‘authentic self'.
Like many people I have spent a large period of my life trying to be someone I am not, for all sorts of reasons. The main reason is often conformity or believing you have to act in a certain way in order to be seen as credible and respected. Conformance is encouraged from many directions:
To please others
Did conforming make me happy or successful? The truth is, no. I was miserable and also found this alter ego did not serve me well as I was not achieving the results or recognition I desired.
I always felt that I was trying to prove something to others, particularly those in authority or seniority (both in position and age).
During our careers we are told to behave ‘professionally', but what does that actually mean. Does it mean that we become someone else at work - the imposter?
The imposter syndrome has derived from our feeling that we need to conform to a pattern of behaviour that fits in with an organisational culture. This often means that we are behaving in-authentically as an imposter at work. Therefore when we leave our place of work we take off our mask and revert to other alter ego and our true self with our acquaintances, friends and family.
In my experience most of us are not being our authentic true self and are living by someone else's rules and expectations causing stress and forcing us to live behind a mask in order to be able to conform.
When I ruminated about the roles I had throughout my career, I realised that I was trying to conform and prove something to others, particularly those in positions of seniority or authority. This conformity led to the fact that I was not being authentic. I decided to do some further reflection on this subject and was able to recognise times in my career and life where I felt unhappy and unfulfilled.
I learnt I needed to drop the façade and be myself. Once I did this, the results were life-changing. I was able to develop deeper and more sustainable relationships, have a greater degree of influence and deliver tangible and effective solutions in my role whilst helping people to change their working behaviour and their lives.
Our day-to-day lives are so busy and full that we fail to analyse our behaviour and realise that we are not living authentically. If you can relate to what has been described so far, you may be living behind a mask or with an affliction known as the imposter syndrome. In my recently published book ‘Behind the Mask' you will be able to discover your values, analyse the areas of your life where you are unfulfilled or unhappy and identify the true you.
Here are seven top tips on how to be authentic at work...
1. Understand why other people's opinions matter to you
To successfully change the way that you think, it's helpful to first understand why you are thinking that way. Why does it matter to you so much what other people think of you? Get feedback from your boss, peers and those who you are responsible for.
2. Focus on what really matters
In a similar vein, identify what really matters to you? What are your core values and who are the most important people in your life? If you're satisfied with the person you are and have quality relationships with people who love and respect you, what other people think of you becomes significantly less important.
3. Don't try to please everyone
Trying to please everyone is an impossible task as no matter what you do or say there will always be someone out there who will judge you.
4. Detox your relationships and associations
Negative people have negative thoughts which you have no control over how they think or behave. Negative people are a drain on our energy and can be toxic if you allow them to influence your thoughts, behaviours and life. You can take action to exclude them from your life. If they are people who you have to work with, then be civil but ensure that you minimise the contact you have with them and keep a positive mindset. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into their negative emotions.
5. Direct your energy to something positive
We spend a lot of time and energy that you waste fretting about what other people are thinking about you (when they're most likely not!). During this time, you could be achieving something positive. Also direct your energies into tasks and challenges that will get positive results and don't sweat about the small stuff that will deliver minimal return.
6. Find yourself
This might sound clichéd, but you'll never be truly free until you have discovered your authentic self. Furthermore whilst you are wearing the mask of the person (imposter) you are holding yourself back from living authentically.
7. Living authentically
Self-awareness is the cornerstone of authenticity. Once you have identified who your authentic self is and what your core values are, you can take the steps to living your most authentic life possible.
Author of Behind the Mask, Andree Funnell is a principle learning, development consultant and coach at Aspiring Future Competence
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