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Help it’s an Imposter… or is it?

Nikita Phillips, BTS Candidate Support & Business Development Adviser, discusses imposter syndrome and the ways in which she has learnt to manage it whilst building her career in financial services.

Have you ever experienced imposter feelings?

By this, I mean the feeling of being a complete fraud. You spend each day at work convinced you are faking everything that you do. You feel constantly worried that soon enough, everything is going to come crashing down and people will see the real you.

As I sat down to write my first-ever suitability report, as a newly qualified paraplanner, all I could think was, how on earth have I got to this point? How have I convinced so many people that I have the knowledge and skills to be a Paraplanner? I’m not a ‘real’ Paraplanner, just a highly skilled con artist.

Well, I’d like to introduce you to my friend imposter syndrome…and when I say friend, actually, imposter syndrome is more like my nemesis.

Help it’s an imposter… or is it?
Help it’s an imposter… or is it

An introduction to ‘imposter syndrome’

Imposter syndrome occurs frequently in so many of us, because we cannot believe or internalise our success. We have feelings of inadequacy and this leads us to believe that we are not deserving of our achievements.

I cannot tell you the number of exams I have sat, where I have been adamant I have failed, only to come out with a pass. For me to be ‘wrong again’, has almost become an ongoing joke in my family, but this actually creates more fear. What happens if I don’t pass and everyone is expecting me too?

Even when I get my results, I still have this niggling thought in the back of my mind that the examiner has marked the wrong paper by mistake, because how could I have passed?

Spot the Signs

Imposter syndrome can present itself in many different ways:

  • Continually attributing your success to other factors, such as people – or even just “luck”
  • Focusing on your mistakes, rather than your accomplishments. You feel that each mistake you make, brings you closer to being ‘unmasked as a fraud’.
  • Overstudying. Perhaps you believe that you are less intelligent than your peers and you need to spend every free second studying in an attempt to keep up with them.
  • Procrastination. This can occur because you have the fear that you will not complete your work to the right standard. 

Managing imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can severely impact your career in financial services. I have turned down some amazing opportunities because, I felt undeserving of them. Over the past few years, I’ve learnt how to manage my imposter syndrome by doing the following:

Help it’s an imposter… or is it
Help it’s an imposter… or is it
  • Being perfectly imperfect – I needed to understand that nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes now and then. When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it and I no longer let it take me down. I think to myself, if my colleague had made this mistake, how critical would I be of them? It is so easy to think that our mistake is going to result in everyone seeing the ‘real you’, unmasking you as a ‘fraud’. So, accept that mistakes will happen, and move on.

 

  • Identifying and recognising my strengths – I always felt anxious receiving feedback. I knew that I was only going to focus on the negatives and not the positives. I’m learning to embrace feedback these days. I view it as a tool to enable me to improve, as opposed to viewing feedback as a list of all the things that I did wrong. I start with the negative feedback and break this down, “Okay, so I need to change X, Y, and Z” and then I look at the positive feedback and think “Look how happy they are with A-W”, “look how strong I am in this particular area”.

 

  • Talk, talk, and talk some more – One of the main issues I experienced with imposter syndrome, was that no one else seemed to have it! It was just me, so there can’t be a syndrome, surely? In reality, many people feel this way, they just don’t talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we get to grips with it and the less alone we feel.
  • Super soft skills – When I sat down to write my first report, it’s no wonder that I felt completely out of my depth. I had no training on how to write reports. Yes, I was qualified and I had passed many exams, but that didn’t mean I was ready. I really would have benefitted from training on soft skills, but I didn’t raise this. If this is something that you feel would benefit you, be confident enough to raise this with your employer and see what additional support they can provide in this area. It will be worth it, I promise!

 

Someone once told me, “The best teachers are still learning”, and it’s true. You don’t need to know everything to be good in your position and you certainly wouldn’t expect that from anyone else.

So, you are not an imposter, you are a wonderful work in progress. Thinking about it this way, will ensure that we continuously learn and develop, as we progress throughout our career.

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?

Read another insightful article on mental health ‘The Importance of Talking about our Experiences’ to find out more about the importance of sharing your journey.   

Find out helpful in depth tips and advise for Paraplanners.

Read our Testimonials page to see how we have supported our candidates reach their goals.

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