Speaker toolkit – part three: imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome or imposter feelings can strike at any time, but especially when speaking in public. This instalment of our Speaker Toolkit will examine how you can combat imposter feelings.

However, first, let’s listen to the clip below, where Maryam explains exactly what imposter feelings are:

Psychologists researching “imposterism” have found these feelings can manifest in anyone – regardless of your gender, race, age and occupation. Imposter feelings make you feel like a fraud and not good enough to receive people’s praise and attention for your achievements despite evidence to the contrary. So, what can you do to combat them?

Knowledge is power
Whether you refer to imposter feelings as imposter syndrome, imposterism or the fraud police, knowing that many people from varying backgrounds experience these feelings can be a huge relief. Having an understanding about imposter feelings and knowing it has been researched by psychologists can help you realise that you are alone in dealing with these issues. There are loads of great resources that you can tap into to find out more. Why not check out Maryam’s TEDxUCLWomen talk on imposter syndrome or Elizabeth Cox’s great TED-Ed video?

Negativity bias
Unfortunately, we all have a negativity bias – we all remember the one thing that we did “wrong” rather than the hundreds of things we did the “right”. This negativity bias can play into the hands of imposter feelings, making them feel even more pronounced. Therefore, it’s important to consciously collect positive feedback and re-visit this feedback when you are feeling like an imposter. By having this store of positive moments and feelings, it won’t banish imposter feelings, but it will certainly soften them and remind you of how great you are.

Time to talk
The main way to combat imposter feelings is to talk about them. Part of the suffering of imposter feelings is that you feel you have this horrible secret which you must shoulder alone. You worry that sharing your concerns about your fraudulent feelings will only confirm how much of an imposter you are. However, reaching out and connecting with others can help you see how even people who you respect and admire can have imposter feelings. In fact, you may find that many of your friends, family members and colleagues are already a part of this “secret society of imposters”, and only by talking about it can you find your fellow imposters and support each other.

Combating imposter feelings for public speaking
Now you have a grasp on the first steps to combating imposter feelings in general, see the video below from Maryam about how to combat imposter’s feelings when you are planning to speak in public.

We’d love to hear from you – please get in touch here if you have any ideas for future toolkits, or enjoyed using some of our advice!