Research has shown that women who experience imposter syndrome at work also feel an increased sense of unworthiness in other parts of their lives. So how do you take on your own feelings?
Do you spend your workdays with the taunt of “I shouldn’t be here” in your head? And rather than acknowledging your stellar achievements, do you put them down to luck? If you’re in this constant state of work-related self-doubt, you might have what’s commonly referred to as Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a very modern word for a psychological condition that has especially crippled women in the workplace, going back to the 1970s. The term dates from 1978 when Oberlin psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes identified how certain people constantly felt like shams in their careers and lives. It essentially means you feel like a fraud as if you don’t belong in your job, despite having aced the interview and never missed a deadline. Accomplishments go unacknowledged, getting internalised as anxieties.
Every email from your boss – even those dubbed as a relaxed catch-up – fills you with a sense of doom. Is this the day you finally get your marching orders, found out that you have succeeded on luck rather than ability?
Sound familiar? If so, you’re a classic imposter. Only you’re not. You just think you are. This also extends to the world of celebrity. Public figures such as Emma Watson, Kate Winslet, Tina Fey and Sheryl Sandberg have all openly said they suffer from the condition. But the good news is, you can combat these feelings. Here are six useful tricks I have found help me to feel more confident and self-assured, both in the workplace and outside it.
Accept that you have had some role in your successes
We tend to feel like frauds because we are unable to internalise our successes. We brush them by telling ourselves that we were lucky to be given an opportunity that so many others were not. So, we feel that nothing we achieve after that opportunity was deserved. But you did do something to get where you are. You planned. You invested your time, effort and yourself in the tasks at hand. You said yes when you could have said no so keep remembering that in times of doubt.
Remember that mistakes are key to success
Everyone fails at something at one point in their lives. Mistakes help us learn, grow and become better versions of ourselves. Losing is just part of the game. Don’t glorify failure, but don’t let it make you feel like you’re not a real contender either.
It is impossible for imposter syndrome to survive when you’re taking action. Taking action proves that you’re not a fraud. It tests your mettle in the real world and it cannot do damage to the person who consistently takes action.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Too often we fall into the trap of comparing our insides with others outsides; our weaknesses with other strengths. Remember that you got the job based on your uniqueness and what you can bring to the table. You can do things that your co-workers cannot so remember to utilise these strengths; they will make you stand out and aid you on the ladder to success.
Keep a journal
Writing your successes and failures down gives you a retrospective insight about them, and re-reading them makes you keep track of both. You’ll have your achievements just as you’ll have times you want to start again but physically having the words to look at shows you how far you’ve come; you’re making things happen, not waiting for things to come to you. What imposter would strive for that?
It takes courage to take on challenges and pursue aspirations that leave you wide open to falling short and being “found out.” But when you refuse to let your doubts dictate your choices, you open new doors of opportunity and discover just how much you can really achieve. In the process, you’ll come to realise that the only imposter you ever had to worry about is your fear of people thinking you are one.