Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Financial Services

Imposter syndrome can affect new financial advisors and experienced advisors alike. So much of the work for a financial advisor includes promoting yourself online and in person, making pitches to clients, and in general, putting yourself out there–a difficult prospect, even for the highly confident.

At first, this may be incredibly intimidating, but it can become easier over time as you gain more experience and find success. It’s natural to feel like a fraud when you are just starting and to feel self-doubt as you develop your approach to a successful career. Where imposter syndrome becomes a problem is when extreme feelings of self-doubt stick around despite evidence that you are a high achiever.

Instead of feeling increasing confidence with each new success, if you have imposter syndrome, you may find it difficult to acknowledge your skills and experience. This can lead to challenges as you progress throughout your career. You may find yourself chronically underselling your abilities to clients and undercutting your potential to succeed and thrive.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is an underlying feeling that you are a phony despite your ability to perform well in your field. It exhibits through feelings that you are not capable or intelligent enough. It distorts how you see yourself and your abilities, as well as how others may perceive you.

Symptoms of imposter syndrome include feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, extreme self-doubt, and negative self-talk.

There are lots of reasons why you might struggle with feeling like an imposter. What matters is that it stunts our ability to grow and leaves success up to other people. Happily, these tendencies can be mitigated and worked on–and even leveraged.

What Can You Do?

Imposter syndrome is a pretty common experience. Acknowledging it will help you learn to understand why you feel the way you do and learn strategies to help you improve yourself. It will also help you pinpoint areas of self-doubt and devise strategies to fill the gaps. For example, if you have trouble discussing fees then you might need to develop a written script as part of your pitch just to make sure that you are clear and that you are getting what you deserve. Your strategies may not be 100% perfect, but that’s OK. Most advisors aren’t perfect in all things. The important thing is to not give in to negative tendencies.

There are lots of ways to deal with imposter syndrome that will be tailored to your particular needs, but here are a few strategies that may help:

    • Write Down Your Successes: If you’re dealing with self-doubt you may have a hard time sorting through your positive and negative thoughts or dwell on the negative ones. Take some time out daily or weekly to write out what you have done well. This will help you focus more on what you can achieve and how well you are doing. You may also take some time to write down past accomplishments in terms of training, and certifications–basically, anything that makes you stand out from others in financial services. This will help you focus more on what you have to offer.
    • Stop Comparing Yourself: Comparing yourself to others is normal and common. We all do it. However, it’s not a useful practice. Comparisons are usually unfair as we judge ourselves internally but judge others externally. Comparisons are usually based on assumptions, which are often incorrect and made through rose-colored glasses. We cannot control others, we can only control ourselves. This means that making comparisons leads us to focus on the wrong person. Focus on yourself and what you can do to improve. There will always be someone out there who is more successful than you are, so focus on your specific combination of traits and skills.
    • Change Negative Self-Talk Into Positive: After you’ve accepted that you deal with imposter syndrome, you can catch yourself in your descent into negative self-talk. There are many ways to combat this tendency. One way is to write down the negative thoughts and counter them with reasons they are not true. You might ask, “What am I telling myself that isn’t true?” Stopping negative self-talk takes practice. You may look towards external help, such as a financial advisor coach, to help you figure out ways to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
    • Stop Being a Perfectionist: Being perfect can seem like a good thing except that it causes you to set impossibly high standards for yourself and then leaves you with deep anxiety when you fail. It leads to feelings of dissatisfaction with good results as well as the tendency to fixate on mistakes. Overall, being a perfectionist is self-sabotaging and will exclude you from being happy and able to focus on what you do well.

Imposter syndrome can be a deep-rooted challenge for many working in financial services. Remember, however, that you can develop positive coping mechanisms which work to propel your career forward. You can do this by learning how to truly value what you have to offer in this industry, which can lead to a genuine increase in confidence and career satisfaction over time.

Would you like help in overcoming imposter syndrome? As a natural mentor and facilitator, I offer financial advisor life coaching to help you find the inspiration to create the life and career that you desire–and deserve!

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