The Guide To Tackling Imposter Syndrome And Self-Doubt
Welcome to The Smarter Accountant Podcast, the show where I dive deep into topics that affect every accountant. Today’s episode is all about self-confidence, self-doubt, and that challenging topic of Imposter Syndrome.
In my book, “The Smarter Accountant,” I shared the story of Adam, a seasoned CPA who seemed to have it all together on the surface. Graduating with flying colors, securing a prestigious job right after college, and gaining a wealth of experience, it’s easy to assume that Adam would exude confidence in every aspect of his life.
However, beneath that impressive exterior were struggles that many professionals in the accounting world can relate to.
Adam’s inner battle with self-doubt and the fear of being exposed as an imposter left him feeling stuck in his career, unable to make crucial decisions both personally and professionally. He wrestled with the idea of leaving his current job, doubting his capabilities to succeed outside of his comfort zone.
Have you ever experienced moments of doubt about your abilities, even when your track record suggests otherwise? Have you ever felt like you’re just waiting for someone to realize that you don’t truly belong or deserve your achievements?
If this resonates with you, just know that you’re not alone. Research has shown that many accountants and finance professionals grapple with imposter syndrome, often driven by the analytical and perfectionistic nature of our work.
In this episode, I’ll be exploring the truth behind self-confidence, why achievements alone don’t necessarily guarantee it, and the importance of understanding and mastering our own minds. I’ll be diving deep into imposter syndrome, uncovering its common signs, and exploring its roots in social conditioning and parental influence.
But don’t worry; I’ll also be providing you with powerful tools and insights to become a Smarter Accountant. With these tools in hand, you’ll be able to conquer self-doubt and imposter syndrome, unlocking your true potential both in your career and personal life.
The truth about self-confidence, self-doubt, and Imposter Syndrome
In the world of accounting, self-confidence is often perceived as an elusive trait that can only be achieved through external validation. Many of us believe that our self-worth and confidence are directly tied to our achievements, professional designations, and the recognition we receive from others.
However, the truth about self-confidence goes much deeper than surface-level accomplishments.
The key to understanding self-confidence lies in recognizing that it isn’t dependent on the number of degrees or accolades after our name, the prestigious university we attended, or even our IQ level. True self-confidence is rooted in how we manage and master our own minds.
It’s easy for accountants to fall into the trap of trying to fix a lack of self-confidence by pursuing external achievements. We might work longer hours, take more continuing education courses, or try to please everyone around us in an attempt to gain validation and confidence.
However, this approach is inherently flawed because external accomplishments do not create lasting self-confidence.
Imagine achieving a coveted promotion or earning a prestigious certification; you might feel a momentary boost in confidence. However, if you haven’t addressed the underlying beliefs about yourself, that fleeting sense of confidence is likely to dissipate quickly.
The truth is that the root cause of self-confidence lies within the realm of our thoughts, beliefs, and mindset.
As I mentioned earlier, in my book “The Smarter Accountant” I shared the story of Adam who was struggling with self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Despite his impressive career and academic achievements, he struggled with thoughts of inadequacy and fears that he didn’t deserve his success.
This internal struggle was a clear indication that external accomplishments alone aren’t enough to foster self-confidence.
It’s also important to understand that Imposter Syndrome, a phenomenon experienced by many high-achievers, compounds the issue. I’m going to talk more about this in a minute, but Imposter Syndrome is that nagging feeling of being a fraud, of fearing that one day, someone will uncover the truth that you’re not as competent as others believe you to be.
Unfortunately, the constant feeling of self-doubt can lead to avoiding challenges and undermining our abilities.
Studies have shown that accountants and finance professionals are particularly prone to imposter syndrome due to the nature of our work. The analytical, data-driven nature of accounting can create an environment where perfectionism and self-criticism thrive, which then fuels imposter feelings.
To break free from the feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, it’s essential to understand that our beliefs about ourselves drive our confidence. External achievements are merely effects, not causes, of self-confidence.
If we want to build lasting self-confidence, we must address the core beliefs that underlie our self-perception.
The key is that the path to overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome starts with your accountant brain.
Why you need to understand cognitive dissonance
Understanding how our accountant brains work is important because they hold the key to conquering self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome. But sometimes, a tricky thing called cognitive dissonance can get in the way.
Cognitive dissonance is when we feel uneasy because we have conflicting thoughts or beliefs. Imagine it like having two different ideas pulling you in opposite directions.
Here’s a simple example: Let’s say you got promoted to a senior position. On one hand, you doubt if you’re good enough for the role. On the other hand, your promotion shows that others think you are capable.
This mismatch between your doubts and the promotion creates discomfort. You end up questioning yourself a lot, which affects how confident you feel at work.
Cognitive dissonance doesn’t stop at work. It can impact how we make choices, what we believe, and even how we see ourselves. Recognizing it can help you understand why you might resist change or hold onto beliefs that aren’t helping you.
So, understanding cognitive dissonance is like having a tool for self-awareness, helping you make sense of why you might feel conflicted and how to deal with it.
Understanding Imposter Syndrome
As I shared earlier, imposter syndrome is when you doubt your achievements and worry that others will find out you’re not as good as they think. This happens even when you’re actually good at what you do. It’s also common in jobs where people expect a lot, like accounting.
People with imposter syndrome often feel like they’re not good enough, even when they’re successful. They might think their success is just luck or that they’re fooling everyone.
In the accounting world, where accuracy is key, feelings of imposter syndrome can be incredibly common because we tend to set high standards and criticize ourselves too much.
While feeling this way is normal, it’s better to deal with it sooner rather than later. Recognizing the signs is the first step to overcoming it.
Some common signs include:
- Feeling like a fraud despite accomplishments and qualifications.
- Downplaying successes as luck or timing.
- Difficulty accepting praise or recognition.
- Fear of failure or making mistakes.
- Overworking to prove one’s worth.
- Constantly seeking validation and reassurance from others.
The interesting thing is that imposter syndrome can have its roots in various factors.
Imposter syndrome can come from different places, like pressure from parents or teachers to be perfect, society’s focus on being the best, comparing yourself to others, or fearing failure or rejection.
Again, there’s no shame in experiencing imposter syndrome, but it is important to address it so that it doesn’t become a bigger issue. .
Our brain’s role in self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence
Understanding why we doubt ourselves and lack confidence involves looking at our brain’s role in shaping our thoughts about who we are. Your brain is like a filter for how you see yourself and the world and it’s important to understand its role in self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence.
First, your brain tends to focus on the negative; a bit like an “inner critic.” While this was useful long ago when humans lived in caves and we needed to spot danger, now it makes us overly critical of ourselves.
Second, your beliefs about yourself are often formed during childhood through interactions with parents, teachers, and other significant figures. If you received consistent messages that emphasized perfectionism or unrealistic standards, you might have internalized these beliefs and now struggle with imposter syndrome and self-doubt.
Third, societal and cultural norms can also contribute to self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence. Living in a society that places a high value on external achievements and compares individuals to societal standards of success can create pressure to constantly prove oneself, fueling imposter feelings.
Fourth, there’s this brain part called the Reticular Activating System that decides what you pay attention to. If we have a belief that we are not good enough or lack certain abilities, our Reticular Activating System will actively seek evidence to support this belief, reinforcing our self-doubt. In other words, if you think you’re not good enough, it looks for proof that you’re right.
Fifth, there’s something called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is our brain’s tendency to actively seek or interpret information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs. For example, if we doubt our capabilities as an accountant, we may unconsciously focus on instances where we made mistakes or encountered challenges, overlooking instances of success and competence.
And the last thing to understand is that our self-talk matters. Our internal dialogue, or self-talk, significantly impacts our self-confidence. If we engage in negative and self-critical self-talk, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and doubt.
The good news is, you can change your brain. It’s like a flexible muscle. You can train it to think differently and feel more confident. It takes a little practice, but it’s absolutely possible to transform how you see yourself.
Becoming a Smarter Accountant
There’s no shame in feeling a lack of self-confidence, self-doubt, and suffering from imposter syndrome, but thankfully, there’s also something you can do about it.
The good news is that the tool I teach my clients called The Model shows you the process for self-coaching. The Model was created by Brooke Castillo and is a cognitive framework designed to help individuals understand the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, actions, and results.
I will be explaining the process of self-coaching in an upcoming episode, but for now, just know that developing self-awareness is the key to breaking free from self-doubt and improving your self-confidence.
The truth is that self-doubt is a feeling caused by your thoughts, not by any circumstances or facts. The only thing causing you to feel self-doubt are sentences in your brain.
Let me illustrate how this works – for example, let’s say your boss asked you to do a presentation for the team and your thought is “I’m going to fail at this.”
Of course you’re going to feel self-doubt, but it has nothing to do with the boss asking you to do a presentation for the team. Your feeling of self-doubt only came from the thought, “I’m going to fail at this.”
That sneaky thought is the only thing that can cause you to feel self-doubt. Your accountant brain had that thought and that thought led you to feel self-doubt.
But here’s why this is so important to understand – because of what the feeling of self-doubt leads you to do or not do.
In this example, if you felt self-doubt you might immediately want to say no; spin in confusion about what to say; procrastinate coming up with ideas for the presentation; worry about what others will think of you; think about the times you didn’t do well in presentations; don’t come up with a plan; don’t look for ways you can add value to the team; don’t get your other work done because you’re obsessing about the presentation; don’t believe in yourself.
And the result of all this? You actually fail ahead of time.
The truth is that failing ahead of time happens when you’re so afraid of failing that your actions, inactions, and reactions lead to an unwanted result—further proof of the thought, “I’m going to fail at this.”
The best news I can give you is that since your brain is the reason you feel self-doubt in the first place, it’s also the reason you can feel self-confident. The key is that the feeling of self-confidence is within your control by what you choose to think about yourself.
As a Smarter Accountant, you can learn why you’re feeling a lack of self-confidence, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome and, more importantly, be able to do something about it. It’s important to understand that, although the lower, Toddler part of your brain is always going to offer you negative-biased thoughts, by becoming a Smarter Accountant you know how to use the higher, Supervising Parent part of your brain more often, improving your self-confidence in the process.
A Smarter Accountant understands that self-doubt is always an option, but it isn’t going to lead to the results they truly want. With the awareness of how much control they have over what they think and feel, a Smarter Accountant intentionally chooses believable thoughts that produce a more useful feeling.
It’s important to understand that you don’t need to know how to do something—you only need to trust in yourself and your ability to figure it out. A Smarter Accountant accepts that change and growth are possible because they know that they can rewire their brain to create self-confidence on purpose.
Unfortunately, if you think that something like getting a promotion will build your self-confidence, you will most likely wind up still feeling insecure in the new position, often faced with more imposter syndrome. The reason this happens is that your outer circumstances don’t create the feeling of self-confidence.
Getting a promotion, finding a mate, or receiving a positive yearly review are the effects, and not the cause, of your self-confidence. The truth is that, If you didn’t have self-confidence before going after these achievements, you’d quickly fall back into your old belief system because beliefs don’t change without some work.
That’s why achieving the professional status of CPA, or any other professional designation, won’t build self-confidence if you haven’t changed your underlying beliefs about yourself. If you struggle with self-confidence, it’s because you haven’t addressed the cause.
As I tell my coaching clients, changing circumstances to feel better won’t work because you’re taking your brain with you. You have to learn the simple process of self-coaching so that you can tackle self-doubt and imposter syndrome, once and for all.
If you have difficulty with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, let’s talk. Schedule a quick, free coaching session with me and I’ll help you understand what to do.
Switching jobs or going after more professional designations isn’t as helpful or useful as you might think. I can help create lasting self-confidence in a matter of 6 weeks..
Just go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.
That’s what I have for you, but make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.
Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..
Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast. The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.
The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.