4.2 Put a label on it
To be able to leave their IS behind, it is important to first get them to acknowledge what it is they feel. To acknowledge it, to talk out loud about the fear of being found out as a fraud, is a major step in moving beyond IS towards a future in which they can feel self-confident and proud in their achievements.
Putting a label on it makes it real. Once the IS feelings have been brought out into the open it becomes easier for the client to start talking about their experiences.
To help the client through this process it is extremely important the coach maintains the safe and confidential space for the client. Positive affirmations, careful feedback, support and encouragement help shore the client’s confidence in working through this first step of leaving their IS behind.
Recommended reading (for everybody!!):
- Valerie Young, Ed. D., “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women” (Crown Business, 2011)
- Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, “Daring Greatly. How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead” (Avery, 2012)
- Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In. Women, work and the will to lead” (Lean In Foundation: WH Allen, 2015)
Recommended viewing (for everybody!!):
- Chris Lema, “The Impostor Syndrom”, https://youtu.be/uKTm3TV9u4M (WordCamp Phx14, 2014)
4.3 Acknowledge strengths and successes
Though they themselves may not think so, clients with IS are usually successful even very successful people. Coaches can help them come to view the achievement of their successes in a much more realistic way as well as help them discover how their IS has brought them where they are now.
What talents and expertise did they bring to the table? What role did they play in the successful completion of that project? What was it that they could do, that no one else was able to? What do they do well? How have their IS coping mechanisms served them? In what areas of expertise do colleagues ask them for help?
It can be very effective to invite the client to keep a journal of positive feedback they get on their competence and performance. It helps clients realize and remember what it is they do well. For the client the challenge in just receiving the feedback is to refrain from automatic negative self-talk.
Focusing on their strengths instead of their weaknesses is also very helpful. Inviting the client for example to explore their strengths and list at least 10 things they are good at can help them focus more on their strengths. Once they have good idea of their strengths and talents, they can start focusing on how to put them to good use.
In acknowledging successes and internalizing positive feedback instead of spiraling into automatic negative self-talk, clients become aware of those thoughts. In focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses, their attention is on the positive rather than the negative. When they become more experienced at employing positive self-talk and focus, the client will become ever more adapt at nipping their IS feelings in the bud.
- Appreciative Inquiry
- Strengths Finder 2.0
4.4 Change the talk
Having suffered from IS for what likely is a long time, certain thought patterns have become so ingrained the client no longer notices them. Much like riding a bicycle where after a while maintaining balance has become an entirely unconscious act, so has negative self-talk in response to compliments and successes become an unconscious act for the person with IS.
Focussing on accepting compliments and positive feedback gracefully, brings awareness of the automatic negative self-talk in which they have engaged for so long. Now when automatic thoughts appear in the form of negative self-talk these thoughts can be challenged and more balanced, even positive thoughts can be formulated in their stead.