It seems to me that I regularly hear people either explicitly say, or simply describe feelings and emotions that sound like Imposter Syndrome. Often these people are talented in their field. They know their stuff. Despite this, still they suffer. And like them, I’ve been there too. I know it’s no place to be and we don’t deserve to be there.
When Michelle Obama was asked in 2018, at a school in North London how she felt about being viewed as a ‘beacon of hope’ she replied, “I still have a little Imposter Syndrome, it never goes away that you’re actually listening to me”.
Imposter Syndrome is the belief that we’re not as competent, talented, or perhaps as bright as the people around us believe us to be. Instead, we think we’ve fooled our boss, our colleagues, clients, the university even…anyone at all who believes that we are indeed talented and capable. Imposter Syndrome is something we ‘do’ internally.
You might feel as though:
- You are a fake
- You’ll be exposed as a fraud at any moment
- You don’t belong
- You’re only where you are out of sheer luck
Imposter Syndrome can have a huge impact on your wellbeing, affecting your productivity, performance and leading to you creating a damaging negative self-perception.
Signs you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome can include:
- Not feeling worthy of the success you’ve achieved
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Fearing you’ll be discovered as a fraud
- Believing that compliments and praise are only given because people are being nice
- You are where you due to luck, not your talent
The term Imposter Syndrome was coined in 1978 by two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, when they were working on a paper about high achieving women and the ‘imposter phenomenon’ prevalent amongst this group.
In the UK Imposter Syndrome is prevalent in the working population, there are many studies pointing to differing, but broadly similar numbers.
In May 2021, HR News published statistics and data of 1,000 adults that were surveyed about Imposter Syndrome, all of them having been working in their industry for at least 3 years. In the survey, 90% of women and 85% of men said they suffer from Imposter Syndrome.
- 60% of the people surveyed said they needed regular positive feedback on their performance.
- 44% of the people surveyed said that they wanted to be able to talk about challenges openly.
Here are five variants of Imposter Syndrome, identified by Dr Valerie Young:
- The perfectionist: Everything has to be perfect; any minor issue can lead to you questioning your ability. Achieving 99% will be equated to failure.
- Expert: You need to validate your knowledge, always learning, always earning another certificate to prove your worth and take away a perceived risk of being branded unknowledgeable.
- Natural genius: Expect everything to go perfectly on the first attempt. Any problem encountered will make you question whether you should be doing this at all.
- Soloist: Must do everything themselves. Asking for help is something to be ashamed of.
- Superhuman: Being 100% brilliant at everything you do in life, whether parenting, relationships, career, friend, or anything else. You’ll push yourself to be perfect, or else believe you have failed.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
The good news is, that it is possible to overcome Imposter Syndrome. The most important thing to remember is that how you talk to yourself (we all have inner self-talk) will impact how you see yourself and how you feel about yourself.
Here are ten simple things you could explore to help you:
- Make a list of 10 thingsthat prove you are as qualified as anyone else for your role
- Tell yourself you are good at what you do. Try to recognise your own expertise.
- Own your achievements. Don’t simply explain success away by using ‘hard work by others’ or ‘luck’ as the reason for an achievement. Instead, recognise the role you played and be proud of it.
- Visualise your success: Imagine in detail how you’ll achieve something, how you’ll overcome issues and obstacles.
- Talk to someone. Have they felt the same way? What did they do?
- Make a choice to be confident. Offer up your skills, answer that question, raise your hand. If it helps, right down four of five things you’ve done well.
- Remind yourself you are good at what you do. Keep copies of any praise you receive; each day think about and right down two or three things that went well for you.
- What is success? Define what success means to you, without counting on anyone else
- Set goals. Setting and reviewing goals will help you track your progress and success.
- Remember. No one is perfect.
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