Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Imposter Syndrome is when we experience feelings of chronic self-doubt and insecurity, which override clear evidence of our capabilities. It is particularly likely to strike at moments of success, such as getting a new job or receiving a promotion. “Imposters” might wonder if they got hired by mistake, and can feel high levels of anxiety at the thought of being “found out” or exposed as being a fraud.
People with Imposter Syndrome find it difficult to internalise their accomplishments and feel inadequate and incompetent, no matter how successful they are. They may have a non-realistic assessment of their abilities, and a lack self-belief and confidence. “Imposters” may feel unworthy of success and as a result attribute their achievements to luck, rather than to their own hard work and skill.
No one is immune from Imposter Syndrome, and even highly successful individuals may experience these feelings. In fact, research suggests that around 70% of us will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in our lives. So, don’t be surprised if you have ever felt like a fraud at work, you are not alone!
Are you suffering from Imposter Syndrome?
Even when there is overwhelming evidence of our abilities, we can all have moments of self-doubt and insecurity. If these statements seem familiar, you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome:
I feel anxious that people will realise I am a fake.
I feel like I don’t deserve any of my achievements.
I am afraid that people will realise that I am not as smart as I seem.
I find it difficult to accept compliments.
I downplay my achievements because I don’t think they are as amazing as other people think they are.
When I get rewarded for my hard work, I don’t feel I have earned it.
I often compare myself to the people around me, and think that they must all be more intelligent than me.
How to beat Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome is very common when we start a new job or get a promotion, and these feelings usually fade as we get to grips with our new role and responsibilities. However, chronic Imposter Syndrome can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, and can prevent us from achieving our potential.
If you feel that Imposter Syndrome is holding you back, here are some tips for re-taking control:
Know your enemy – awareness is the first step to change, so learn to spot when imposter feelings emerge. Once you are aware of the triggers you can start to make changes, for example by spending extra time preparing for team meetings or presentations.
Talk it out - speaking with a trusted friend or colleague can be a great way of gaining another perspective on your feelings. They will hopefully give you a pep talk and help bolster your confidence too. And who knows, if they are also suffering from Imposter Syndrome you may be able to help each other get through it.
Remind yourself of what you have accomplished – keep a record of all of the things that you have achieved in your life, both work-related and otherwise. If you feel that your confidence is starting to dip, give it a boost by looking back through all your accomplishments.
Seek out a mentor – individuals who do not “match” the majority culture in their school or workplace may struggle to feel that they have the right to be there. This means that women, racial minorities and LGBTQ individuals are more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Getting support from a mentor who matches your gender and ethnicity can help you to feel less alone, and less like an imposter.
Become a mentor yourself – it can be easy to forget how much you know when you only compare yourself to peers or senior colleagues. To gain some perspective, offer to teach the new members of your team – you will be amazed by how much you know!
Accept that it’s ok to not know what you’re doing – certain events, such as starting at a new school or a new job, have a very steep learning curve. Rather than feeling like an imposter and trying to hide, accept your relative inexperience and be open to learning and gaining expertise. It is ok to come to the table with nothing to offer, as long as you have a positive attitude and are enthusiastic about learning.
And finally, be kind to yourself - remember that everyone makes mistakes, and no one is expecting you to be perfect. Forgive yourself for the occasional slip up, it’s all part of being human.
If you would like some support in overcoming Imposter Syndrome, feel free to get in touch with the psychotherapists at Acorn Psychotherapy – we would love to help.
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