What is Impostor Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon, where a person believes that they are a failure who is lacking the abilities to thrive in their job. It was first identified in 1978, by two psychologists by the names of Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance.
The Imposter Syndrome is essentially a distortion of reality – those who have it are convinced that despite their hardworking and intelligent nature, that are, in fact, someone who is incompetent and lazy, and have actually tricked everyone into thinking that they are the former. It can be detrimental to your mental health, as this lack of self-esteem and unsureness of oneself can lead to an ‘impostor cycle’ that can be almost impossible to break out of.
Impostor Syndrome Quiz
Does the above sound like you? Take our Imposter Syndrome Test to find out:
5 Common Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome
1. Negative self-talk
Someone with the Impostor Phenomenon will believe that all of their successes are a result of luck, rather than the outcome of hard work and dedication to their position. This outlook tends to occupy their mind, mainly when they are acknowledged for their achievements, as there is a constant fear of being ‘found out’ by workmates that they cannot complete their job to its standard.
2. Constantly checking and rechecking work
When Imposter Syndrome is present, those who have it are full of self-doubt. These impostor feelings tend to become evident in their everyday working life, as you begin to question the quality of every task that you complete. Always checking and rechecking work unnecessarily can be another indication that you are unsure of yourself and how you are performing in your position.
This one is a big one – many people who have Imposter Syndrome will feel as if they have something to prove, when more often than not it is not the case at all. Staying back late although you are already on top of your workload, or unnecessarily overcompensating in other ways just to show others that you’re ‘dedicated’ to your position are traits that you are not confident in your abilities, although there has been no indication by your superiors or other colleagues that there is any cause for this concern.
4. Shying away from additional responsibilities
Sort of like a less-harsh version of self-sabotage, people with Imposter Syndrome often put their focus solely into the work that they are currently doing and avoid taking on additional responsibilities that could demonstrate their abilities more effectively. This self-confidence issue makes them automatically assume that if they put more of their time towards something else, they may compromise the quality of their work and lose sight of their current goals, without even giving themselves the chance to prove their worth.
5. Avoiding attention within the workplace
If you tend to stray from both social aspects in the workplace or try to avoid collaborative discussions, this can be another symptom of the imposter phenomenon. Individuals tend to do this as they fear that they will be put on the spot, which will then lead them to say something that again will ‘give them away’, and in turn will let everyone know that they are a fraud that fooled everyone into thinking they are not as great as their job as once believed.
It sounds crazy when you list them one after the other, but you’d be surprised at just how many people have experienced some or all of these feelings within the course of their professional careers.
of people will experience at least one episode of
Impostor Syndrome in their lives
5 Ways on How to Deal With and Overcome
Become aware of what you are feeling
The first and most important step is to recognise what it is that you are going through. By identifying and becoming aware of your feelings, you are opening yourself up to finding a way to handle them. Begin by recognising what exactly goes through your mind that makes you feel as if you are not worthy of your success. These usually come in forms of recurring, irrational and unrealistic thoughts, which tend to override your positive ones. By practicing the method of identification, you can then work out exactly what it is that is bringing you down.
Stop comparing yourself!
When you begin to compare yourself to others, it’s so easy to fall into an envy trap – you need to focus on what you’re doing, not anyone else! It’s also important to remember that these successful people were one in your very position. Sometimes it can appear as if some people’s accomplishments come to them with ease, but in reality, everyone is dealing with their own unique challenges. When you recognise your strengths and self-worth, you will then learn to respect your abilities and, in turn, realise that you have plenty to give.
Take note of your achievements (seriously, write them down)
I know it sounds cheesy, but the taking the time to identify what you’re great at, along with how your strengths have contributed to your accomplishments can help you to break out of this perception of unworthiness. I think it can also be useful to identify your weaknesses and how you can make improvements to these too. Personal development is beneficial; you just don’t want to get yourself stuck dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives (as this can be a trigger for an ‘impostor cycle’).
Learn to separate feelings from fact
You’re a rare breed if you’ve never experienced a sense of feeling stupid. Many of us have felt or done something that makes you look back and think, ‘Wow, that was pretty dumb’, but that definitely should not define who you are. It’s a learned habit, but taking active steps to distinguish yourself from these feelings will help you change your perception of yourself as a ‘fraud’.
It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let it overcome you
We all face feelings of anxiety and apprehension when confronted with change. The uncertainty of how you will cope with new, different challenges can prompt that little voice in your head to speak up and shut you down, which can then bring forward impostor feelings. This tends to happen when you’re about to something that is out of your comfort zone and is particularly important to you. Take that feeling and acknowledge it. Then, pull forward the positives. Recognise how this new challenge is going to benefit you long term, and identify the necessary steps to achieve your outcome successfully. Preparedness can significantly help, as it eliminates any surprises that may start to bring on Imposter Syndrome vibes again.