Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
Most people who have experienced this condition associate it with their professional roles, but it can also be apparent in relationships and peer groups.
It was first described as a condition that solely affected women, but this myth has now been debunked; it is something commonly experienced by people of all ages, genders and ethnicities.
Speaking on Imposter Syndrome, Michelle Obama said:
"I still have a little impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you're actually listening to me…It doesn't go away, that feeling that you shouldn't take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.” Read the full article here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46434147
There are five ways that Imposter Syndrome tends to manifest itself:
Perfectionists set very high goals for themselves and fixate on achieving everything exactly as they had planned. This doesn’t leave much room for error; and when errors occur, they find it hard not to see the entire project as a failure.
Experts like to know all there is to know about a certain topic; if they find gaps in their knowledge, they doubt their entire expertise on the subject. This also applies in the workplace. For example: When applying for a new job they wouldn’t apply unless they met every criteria on the job description.
3. Natural Genius
When this person has to struggle or work hard to accomplish something they’re ordinarily very good at, they think this means they aren’t good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an impostor (this genius can mean in-work tasks or extra-curricular activities)
4. Soloist Soloists prefer to work alone and associate asking for help with failure. If they cannot complete a task alone, they see this as a failure.
5. Super-human The Super-human trait is working harder than those around you because you need to prove that you’re not an imposter. This can apply to work, relationships and parenting. By constantly working to achieve something they think they are proving their skill and their worth. This particular trait is an exhausting way to live your life!
No one really knows why Imposter Syndrome impacts so many of us. Perhaps we received criticism from parents that made us doubt our abilities or we thought working harder would help us reach what were actually unattainable goals. Parents who focus heavily on academic achievements and only praise good grades and ‘winning’ will often produce children that associate working hard with being loved more. This can be detrimental to someone regardless of their academic ability because they will always be working for more love and more acceptance through achieving. Counselling can be a great way to address some of these issues and help ground you if you experience an attack of Imposter Syndrome.
Other factors are at play here too; confidence often comes from feeling as though you fit in. We are hard-wired to feel accepted by society and those around us.
Women in STEM fields are more likely to feel bouts of Imposter Syndrome because more often than not they might be the only woman in the room, and this makes them doubt their abilities. If you belong to a group for which there are stereotypes about competence, you’re likely to encounter people who suffer with Imposter Syndrome. Every person, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual preference, has the right to pursue a career without feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t good enough.
While it’s a sensible thing in life to know your strengths and your weaknesses, Imposter Syndrome goes beyond a lack of confidence; it’s feeling like a fraud waiting to be found out. Achievements are attributed to luck and external factors rather than skill and knowledge. Making yourself aware of this syndrome is one way to recognise these thoughts before they impact your behaviour. For example: if you think about putting yourself up for a promotion at work but relentless thoughts of inferiority and self-criticism prevent you from doing so, then Imposter Syndrome is impacting your life.
Tips to boost your confidence:
1. Positive affirmations – try telling yourself out loud before you walk into a meeting or a job interview: you’ve got this. You’re here because you deserve to be here, just as much as anyone else in this room. If you tell yourself this enough, you might just start listening.
2. Have a role model. Michelle Obama is a great example of a role model. When you feel like you’re not good enough, remember, even amazing individuals such as Michelle Obama feel like that sometimes – so you’re going to be ok! If you’re in a job interview or a high intensity situation and you’re experiencing self-doubt, imagine that person is there beside you, they’ve got your back!
3. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Life is too short to surround yourself with people that have a negative impact on your confidence.
4. If you think your Imposter Syndrome is too hard to shake by yourself, contact Clarity Counselling Northern Beaches and let us help you break down those barriers that are preventing you from being the best possible version of yourself.