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Impostor syndrome is defined as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.
The Impostor Syndrome has been widely studied and discussed since the 70s and the simplest explanation of the phenomenon, is that regardless of external validation and praise, as humans we lack the aptitude for internally acknowledging our accomplishments.
No matter how successful you are, Imposter Syndrome can still affect you. Tom Hanks, Serena Williams, Arianna Huffington, and Sheryl Sandberg have all opened up about their experience with the syndrome and how they’ve felt inadequate and unworthy at some point.
This phenomenon can strike throughout your career, regardless of how other people perceive you or your success, and regardless of whether you’ve been recognised for your hard work. You can still be left feeling like a fraud. It’s often described, as feeling as though you’ve just gotten lucky and that someday, someone is going to catch you out and realise that you can’t actually do your job. It’s a terrible feeling, but once recognised, there are steps you can take to overcome it.
This fear is often felt when starting a new job. Even though you have proven experience, have aced the interview and know deep down that you can do the job, a part of you is still afraid.
The most restrictive aspect of the Impostor Syndrome is that it can deter us from new opportunities, it can keep us from exploring areas of interest and prevent us from reaching our full potential.
Furthermore, a recent study of over 3,000 UK workers, revealed that roughly 62% of people have suffered from Impostor Syndrome in the last 12 months. With women (66%) being affected more than men (56%). The study suggests that this is a result of factors such as workplace inequality and the gender pay gap (HRNews.com).
Acknowledgment and Acceptance
The first step in overcoming this phenomenon is to identify what you are feeling and realise that these feelings are unjustified. Often naming the emotion we’re feeling and logically analysing whether it is warranted or accurate, can assist in reducing its effect.
Internalise Acknowledgements and Recognise Compliments
As we are wired to focus on our shortcomings and failures, it’s important to take time to celebrate our successes and recognise our achievements when they happen. Focusing on these in times of self-doubt and apprehension, can readjust our thought process and reduce the effect of the syndrome.
Let go of the Fear of Making Mistakes
Failure is a key aspect of growth. Perfection is a myth and failing is part of life – it is essential in the process of development and learning. Confidence and a positive mindset can make all the difference in how you approach a new challenge.
It can be a sign of Determination and Success
Impostor Syndrome tends to affect professionals who are overachievers, determined to reach their full potential. Therefore, it’s helpful to use the presence of the syndrome as a driver and a reminder that you care about what you do and wish to succeed. At the end of the day, the only reason why you fear you’re not good enough is because you genuinely care about succeeding.
Rewire Your Thinking
Begin to separate feelings from fact and rewire your automatic mental response. Instead of thinking “I’ve never done this before, they’re going to realise I have no skills or experience, and have no respect for me”. Think “Doing something new is always a bit difficult, I might need to ask for assistance, but I have transferable skills that will enable me to succeed”. Focussing on the facts and your capabilities will empower you to tackle new challenges.
Impostor Syndrome can affect all of us however, by internalising our successes, letting go of making mistakes, being determined and rewiring our thinking, we can overcome it.
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