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Ex-JPMorgan VP: How to cope with imposter syndrome at work

I wish, more than anything in the world, that someone had told me back when I first wandered onto a trading floor 1) what imposter syndrome was 2) that basically everyone had it and 3) how on earth to deal with it. 

If everyone knew this stuff… the world would, in my eyes, be a much happier place. 

Imposter syndrome is basically that annoying voice in your head that tells you that you’re about to get found out for being the ‘imposter’ that you are, that you really didn’t deserve to get the job at all and it’s just a matter of time before people figure it out and fire you. Yeh, that one. 

I spent far too long assuming that I was the only one perturbed by the crazy fluctuations of my brain. The only one to panic when I was asked to present something; incorrectly assuming that this would 100% be the moment that they all realised I was an idiot and the mask would come off and I’d be fired. 

It was only about eight years into my career that I realised, after opening up a bit about it, that pretty much everyone has it. 

The reality is that banking attracts a lot of high achievers, and to be a high achiever, unless you’re just naturally gifted, you have to have worked pretty damn hard. For a lot of us high achievers, the drive to continue to work so crazily hard is underpinned by a belief that, if we don’t, we’ll surely fail.

That’s why it pops up a lot once we start careers in the big city. Further exacerbated by being surrounded by a lot of other high achievers (your brain likely says: they are all so much smarter than me and will definitely see that I’m a fraud even if nobody else ever has..). 

Painful, right?

Well, not all is lost, there are ways to manage the imposter brain. Here is your 4 step guide:

  1. Notice it. Basic, yes, essential nonetheless. Just recognise it’s there. I like to name it, so *internally* will say ‘Hi, imposter brain’
  2. What is the story?Ask yourself, what story am I actually telling myself here? ie. ‘they are going to fire me’, ‘I’m not as good as everyone else’, ‘I don’t belong here’
  3. Is it true? You have to be really honest with yourself here. Really honest. Is there actual proof for what you are thinking. Proof that could be held up in the court of law proof. If there isn’t, they let this thought GO.
  4. What could you think instead? Ok, so the initial narrative wasn’t accurate. What IS accurate? Come up with a better narrative, which is actually true and that you believe. Repeat this to yourself over and over.

This process works with the neuroplasticity of the brain — consciously choosing more accurate (and helpful) thoughts rather than the imposter thoughts. 

Over time, the more accurate thoughts become your modus operandi, and you’ll be imposter free.

IG: @lucy_puttergill

Lucy Puttergill spent 9 years working on the trading floor in London before leaving in 2020 to start a business working with fellow overachievers to help them break free from the, frankly limiting, constraints of their own inner narratives so that they can become the people they’ve always dreamed of being. 

She is a self-confessed imposter syndrome survivor. 

Photo by Adam Borkowski on Unsplash

AUTHORLucy Puttergill Insider Comment
  • Su
    23 September 2021

    Thank you Lucy Puttergill - very enjoyable article
    Having worked in the financial services industry for many years I found this article to be very interesting. One of my dream jobs would have been to work on the New York Stock Exchange. I never worked in New York City, had no connections, didn't graduate from a top prestigious graduate school. I would not consider myself a high achiever but definitely enjoyed working in this industry.

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