Do you feel like an imposter in your job? Well you are not alone as research suggests that 70% of us will suffer with imposter syndrome in our lifetime.
So what is it?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological fear of both failure and success. Its a pattern of thinking where you continually doubt yourself, question your own success and fear being exposed as a fraud. Most of us will experience self-doubt and fears at some point in our lives but typically it lasts for a limited time, for example, when you start a new job. Your fears will come to an end as you settle in but if you suffer with Imposter syndrome, the self-doubt and fears may last a lifetime.
And sadly, research suggests its especially prevalent amongst high achieving women which may impact their attitude to careers and organisational behaviour.
What are the symptoms of imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome has a number of typical symptoms which can be experienced on a scale of severity. If you suffer with imposter syndrome these are the most common signs:
· You may have difficulty accepting praise. This isn’t a false modesty as you truly believe you don’t deserve it and may attribute your personal success to someone else. You may also feel anxious that success brings more responsibility and advancement which you feel you didn’t deserve in the first place. This self-sabotage limits you from reaching your true potential.
· You may have very high personal standards for yourself and for other people. You are a perfectionist and will overwork and overachieve in order to be the best. You may see yourself as a “hero” looking to achieve impossible standards of perfection, flawlessly, to the point of burn out and often disappointed that others rarely meet the same exacting standards as you.
· Failure is not an option for you. This self imposed pressure builds and builds as you get more successful, and it fuels greater levels of anxiety creating an internal cycle of fear and paralysis …. so you work even harder to overcome the fear of failure. And so it becomes a poisonous vicious circle.
· You won’t show confidence worrying others think you lack the intelligence or talent to back it up. You also assume everyone else is achieving success without the same struggles as you, feeding into your insecurities that there’s something wrong with you
· You worry you’re not enough …. consistently and overwhelmingly feeling you will be discovered as a fraud. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting!
What can help?
Imposter syndrome is actually quite common and there are things that you can do to help in a healthy and proactive way.
· Speak out – Talk to a trusted friend, family member or a therapist. They can provide you with a safe space to help you to open up about your experiences and talk through the situation and distinguish it against the reality of your situation and help you to understand it more.
· Celebrate success – Let them help you celebrate your success, acknowledge your skills and positive outcomes with a written record of your achievements
· No one is perfect – trying to always be perfect is impossible so you need to accept yourself with all your flaws. This is part of building self-esteem and self-worth, increasing personal resilience and happiness
· Challenge negative thinking – develop coping strategies to challenge negative thoughts and create positive thinking patterns.
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), keeping a written record of your achievements with a daily journal, celebrating success, deep breathing techniques, such as mindfulness, to help overcome emotions and feelings of overwhelm are all helpful in overcoming imposter syndrome and boost self esteem and confidence.