Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Overcome Imposter Syndrome: Definition

The vast majority of finance leaders suffer from a lack of confidence at some stage during their career and would significantly benefit from trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is where you do not feel worthy or believe that you have been promoted too quickly into a role. It is also the belief that everything could come crashing down when someone realises that you are not good enough for your role. 

Some statistics

Finding ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome is the biggest personal challenge within the GrowCFO finance leader community.

In fact, market research suggests that around 80% of finance leaders suffer from Imposter Syndrome and almost 60% of the GrowCFO community identified this as one of their top three challenges.

The root cause

Unfortunately, there are many different reasons why so many finance leaders suffer from Imposter Syndrome during their career. This is particularly the case when people first step up into the top role.

Taking on the finance leader role typically creates a huge amount of board room exposure and first-time finance leaders are often one of the youngest people in the board room. You are likely to have the least amount of industry experience and you may come from a very different career background to everybody else.

There are also many other big changes when stepping up into the CFO role from say a Head of Finance position or a number two role. You will suddenly spend a lot more time focusing on external matters and representing your company across many external stakeholders.

Finance leaders spend a lot of time working on complex tasks, many of which you may have never done before. You are now advising the board and there are many alternatives to decisions you make which makes the role a lot less black and white. 

Your junior career probably involved completing activities that have a clear right or wrong answer, such as bookkeeping, compliance and reporting. However, you will now get more involved in strategy and change initiatives and will be constantly faced with different dilemmas. The outcome of these is often unknown and you will need to apply your gut feeling towards making decisions. This is particularly tricky when you then need to influence others that this is the correct path to follow.

How to overcome imposter syndrome 

We use up a lot of emotional energy when we think that we are not good enough. This significantly limits your potential as it reduces your confidence, productivity, motivation and influence. 

There are many small actions that help to develop your inner self and will make you perform to your best ability as the finance leader. Whilst these are individually small, taking such incremental actions will make a huge overall difference.

You need to consider this as embarking on a journey that will lead you to where you want to be, rather than suddenly making an immediate change.

You need to start by developing strong levels of self-awareness to help you overcome Imposter Syndrome. Your first question is to ask yourself: what are the main thoughts that you have in relation to your ability to be in your role?

The way that we think about things will change how we interact in places like the boardroom. We can always change how we think by adopting the most appropriate techniques. You need to ask yourself what evidence you have that back up your current thoughts. Often our own perception of reality is very different to the actual reality. 

To overcome Imposter Syndrome, you need to reframe these negative thoughts. We each have around 60,000 thoughts per day and the majority of these thoughts are negative ones. You need to catch these negative thoughts and react to them in a different way. You can only do this by changing your old beliefs to something new. 

The best way to do this is to create a thought ladder. You start by thinking about one of your most predominant negative thoughts and replacing this with a positive alternative. Then, think of some middle steps that help you to trigger and justify your alternative thoughts. These will be a few thoughts that are more positive than your original ones.

You need to practice applying your more positive thoughts multiple times per day so they become your new default thoughts. This will eventually change your subconscious and you will then grow in confidence as you start to perform better during situations that you previously found challenging.

The best way to achieve this is through meditation. Meditation helps to calm down your mind and let new information in. You need to be in a calm state of mind to think logically and apply the above methodology. Stay focused on integrating your desired thoughts into your subconscious mind so that you overcome Imposter Syndrome by thinking differently. 

The challenge going forward 

Think about a new or existing situation like an important meeting that is coming up. Take the time before that situation to think about how you want to show up in this meeting. It is also important to focus on how you could show up if you didn’t have Imposter Syndrome and the impact that you could make. 

You will overcome Imposter Syndrome by combining thinking differently with behaving differently. This helps you to feel better during challenging situations.

It is natural to experience Imposter Syndrome when starting something new. However, finding confidence in yourself will lead you to make more impact in your role and will help you to consciously go about things differently. You will eventually display yourself in a different way and deliver your role with much more conviction.

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