Do you ever feel like you’re going to get “found out” for not being good enough? That you’ll be “busted” for winging it through your working day? That you’re a fraud and sooner or later, everyone will find out?
If so, you might be struggling with imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
According to Psychology Today, people with imposter syndrome “believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them”.
Something that affects, and limits, us in our work and careers, imposter syndrome can also affect us during education and learning and in our personal lives. It mainly affects high achievers.
Despite successes, those with imposter syndrome might put their achievements down to luck, being at the right place at the right time or management getting things wrong.
Experiencing self-doubt when we’re actually achieving can be exhausting, and can hold us back from the successes we deserve. It often also goes hand in hand with feelings of nervousness, anxiety and depression. We might also be highly sensitive to even the most constructive criticism, stew over mistakes for days or even weeks or longer and downplay our knowledge, experience and expertise.
Combatting self-doubt and imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome, or the fear and worry that we won’t live up to certain expectations, can cause us to lose sight of our own achievements. It can cause us to set ourselves unrealistic expectations meaning that we confirm our own self-doubt when we fail.
So, what can we do about it? Any mental health challenge is hard to deal with, and if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, we strongly recommend speaking to your GP or another health professional. But here’s a few tips on dealing with imposter syndrome:
- Try to avoid comparing yourself to others – a little competition can be healthy, but regularly making comparisons to others, especially those we hold in high regard, may only make us feel like we’re failing.
- Focus on your positives – this takes a lot of work, sometimes even with a professional, but time spent reflecting on the things we’re good at will eventually make us start to develop self-belief.
- Face up to self-doubt and ask it questions – if you really were that terrible at your job, then it wouldn’t be long before you were called in for crisis talks with your manager.
- Talk about your feelings – talking to colleagues and management about your concerns might feel like a daunting task but it may help you by hearing them tell you how highly they regard you. Praise won’t necessarily help, as with imposter syndrome, you assume they’re not telling the truth anyway, but it may help to hear that co-workers consider you a valuable member of the team.
- Focus on undisputable achievements – awards, commendations, fantastic appraisal scores; they all tell the truth. Avoid the urge to assume that they’re all down to winging it, and celebrate them!