Imposter syndrome. Do you sometimes think you are a fraud? That you don’t deserve your success. Someday, and probably soon, you are going to get found out?  

With imposter syndrome you attribute your success to luck and put your success down to – nothing special, any one could do it. Imposter syndrome can also make us work incredibly hard, much harder than anyone else.

This is a common experience – not just with people like us, but famous people too e.g.

  • “I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.  I’m really not very good.  It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeifer
  • “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this.  I’m a fraud.” Kate Winslet

So, let’s see what can help

  1. When you catch yourself having these thoughts shout STOP and recognise that it is – Imposter Syndrome.
  2. Recognise that these feelings are both normal and irrational. Many people feel the same way as you. It helps to stop comparing ourselves to others.
  3. Keep a folder of any positive feedback you get and read and remind yourself of this whenever you feel yourself wavering.
  4. When you have a success – remember that feeling. You have done well, and you should bask in that feeling so you can look back at it again.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to other people, focus more on you. There will always be someone earning more money, writing more books, sold more CDs, having more perceived success. There will also be people who wish they had achieved your level of success. Focus more on doing your best.
  6. So what if you make a mistake, and it doesn’t work out. That’s what happens all the time with sports people and inventors – it is all part of working towards a successful outcome.
  7. Believe in yourself. Go into situations expecting to do well. Too many people expect things to go wrong and share their insecurity with others (thinking of some musicians I know). Most people don’t see this, so don’t point it out to them, Expect it to go well and it usually does.
  8. Help this along by getting into a positive frame of mind before the big interview or gig. Have a routine that works for you. This could include a special drink, to go through a relaxation routine, to remind yourself o three times in the past where you have been successful.
  9. Be grateful for all that you have achieved; if you feel like an imposter it is because you have already achieved success. Be grateful for this.
  10. Stop waiting for everything to be perfect, it may never reach your high standards. Get out there, show the world and use the experience as feedback for next time.
  11. As a business owner, or consultant you may see others getting more coverage in the press or feel they have a stronger online presence. This shows their marketing expertise more than underlying knowledge.

So now let’s look at the underlying theory on Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a term that was first used by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s. It was originally thought to apply mostly to high achieving women who are not able to internalize and accept their success. They put it down to luck rather than ability, and fear others will see them as a fraud. People with a strong belief in this can often feel anxious and this can be accompanied by depression. Since then, it has been recognized as more widely experienced, with 40 percent of high achieving people experiencing this phenomenon.

Imposter syndrome can have its roots in childhood when our parents put us under pressure to succeed.  It can also be triggered when we start a new job or go to university and feel that we don’t belong. It can make us work much harder than necessary. We then think, when we do succeed, that it was only because we worked so hard, thus getting us in a terrible loop. We can also pick this up from wider society.

Added on 6 February: A fellow Psychologist told me:

“The problem is not listed as a syndrome anymore, more of an experience as suggested by the psychologists that researched the issue”.   But so many people still use this term.  

Do you ever experience Imposter Syndrome, I’d love to hear on my blog, tell me the situation and what has helped? Hearing other peoples’ stories is a great way to

Published On: February 5th, 2019 / Categories: Career Management, Personal Development /

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