According to Valerie Young, an internationally recognized expert on Impostor Syndrome in her TED Talk "Thinking Your Way Out of Imposter Syndrome," an astounding 70% of us experience Imposter Syndrome. So it is very normal
Imposter Syndrome is something that can firmly stop us in our tracks as it has us believing, despite evidence to the contrary, that we're not worthy, that we're a fraud, that we're not as good as everyone thinks, and, ultimately, fearful of everyone finding this out.
We really don't want that. And as bookkeepers, we really need to do the exact opposite of that and to stand proud and tall within our communities so that we can help more businesses with the work that we do.
What triggered me today was that I found out that I have been named a finalist in the Institute of Certified NZ Bookkeepers Service to Bookkeeping award. I was recently nominated by 5 of my very lovely bookkeeper clients but I didn't even tell anyone at the time, other than my partner, in case I didn't make the finals.
That was Imposter Syndrome at play. It seems silly in hindsight, but even so, it's this that has me feeling a little anxious this morning.
It's not the first time that I've won an ICNZB award (or NZ Bookkeepers as it was); I was the inaugural winner of the Bookkeeping Trainer of the Year award back in 2014.
But out of any of the awards, it is this one that I am most humbled by.
I am so passionate about helping bookkeepers to understand the value that they bring to a business, and to help bookkeepers to build successful businesses so they can get off the treadmill of trading time for money and create a lifestyle they love.
Yet still, there's that voice in the back of my mind that goes, "yeah, but...."
I think this is largely due to the fact that I have created a business out of this work and I get paid to do most of what I do in this space.
Does this lessen the impact or the service? When I think about it, no. This is my life's work, I am devoting my life to this.
I'm super proud of the work that I do with bookkeepers and for the bookkeeping community. I know that I have made, and continue to make, a significant difference to bookkeepers' lives.
Additionally, as well as my paid work with my From Bookkeeper to Business Owner clients, I also spend a lot of time talking to new bookkeepers, creating free resources for bookkeepers, and supporting the bookkeeping community at large.
Once Imposter Syndrome been recognised and acknowledged for what it is, what can we do about it?
One reason that I am writing this blog is that Imposter Syndrome comes up a lot for my clients as well. The whole "who am I?" thing.
And if that's you then I want you to know that you're not alone.
In fact, it's one of the most often cited things that new bookkeepers coming into From Bookkeeper to Bookkeeper say, that it's such a relief to see that others are going through the same things like them, that they're not alone, and that what they're going through is normal.
We see others who look like they are doing so well and achieving a level of success that looks unattainable to us, but usually, it turns out that they're human just like us and have the same fears and insecurities as the rest of us.
Even super talented and successful people experience imposter syndrome which just seems nuts when we look at it on the surface.
In her book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Sheryl Sandberg wrote,
“And every time I didn't embarrass myself—or even excelled—I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”
Even Michelle Obama has spoken openly about imposter syndrome:
"I still have a little impostor syndrome… It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”
- reported in Newsweek
Valerie Young lists "Break the Silence" at the top of her list of "10 Steps You Can Use To Overcome Imposter Syndrome," and says that "shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing"
Understanding what you're feeling can also help you to focus, not on the fear but on how to get yourself out of it faster.
Young says is that "the only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter."
She says that "people who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or capable than the rest of us... the only difference between them and us is that during that same situation that triggers an impostor feeling in us, they think different thoughts. That’s it...."
This is good news because it means that we can train our brain to think differently.
Reframing means to think of something in a different, usually more positive, way.
For example, feelings of nervousness and excitement are very closely related so we can reframe nervousness about feeling out of our depth simply by saying to ourselves "I am excited."
Instead of thinking "oh my god I've got no idea what I'm doing," reframe that to "how exciting, I'm really going to learn a lot here."
One of the best reframes has got to be from Michelle Obama who tells us this "secret,"
"I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart."
It's unlikely that we will not have imposter syndrome thoughts ever again, but by thinking differently we can know that it's normal, that we're not alone, and we can talk ourselves down off the ledge quicker by reframing what we're feeling, and get back to being our amazing selves.
Join us in From Bookkeeper to Business Owner for support, resources and community, where bookkeepers are building successful businesses so they can get off the treadmill of trading time for money and create lifestyles they love.
Book a call with me to see if this is the right next step for you.