“Everyone else knows what they’re doing except me.”
“If I can do it, anyone can.”
“I didn’t earn this, I just got lucky.”
If you’ve ever had similar thoughts or felt like an imposter at work, you’re not alone.
Many people are all too familiar with the experience of feeling ill-equipped to fill their own shoes, or lack internal acknowledgement of their own success. Research suggests these feelings affect 70 per cent of the population, however when it takes seed inside us, it often feels as if you’re the only person to ever have such destabilising feelings.
These feelings are known as imposter syndrome (IS), also sometimes referred to as imposter phenomenon. It is characterised by chronic feelings of inadequacy and fraudulence despite objective success.
Some of the common signs of imposter syndrome include:
- Undervaluing your performance
- Attributing your success to external factors (i.e., luck)
- Setting excessively challenging goals and feelings of failure when you fall short
- Worrying you won’t live up to expectations
- Avoiding seeking promotions
5 types of Imposter Syndrome
- The Perfectionist – Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations for themselves, therefore are never satisfied and often feel like their work could be better.
For this type, success is rarely satisfying because they believe they could’ve done it even better. However, that’s neither productive or healthy.
Celebrating achievements is crucial if you want to avoid burnout and nurture self-confidence.
- The Superwoman/man – These individuals tend to push themselves to work as hard as possible. This often stems from an individual’s feelings of inadequacy, but the work overload may harm their mental health and their relationships with others
- The Natural Genius – These individuals, like the perfectionist, set excessively high expectations and judge their own ability based on how easily and quickly they can succeed at a goal, even if it’s their first try.
- The Soloist – These people often like to work alone and feel as though asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence. This can lead to tasks taking longer to complete because they’re hesitant to ask for help.
- The Expert – Experts are always trying to learn more. They measure their competence on what and how much they know, even though they are often highly skilled, they undervalue their own expertise.
What can be done to overcome imposter syndrome?
Share your feelings
Hearing that an advisor or mentor has experienced feelings of imposter syndrome, can often help to both minimise and/or relieve them. So, reaching out, whether it is to a personal mentor, line manager or HR Department, can be extremely beneficial for combatting thoughts and feelings related to imposter syndrome. In fact, just finding out that there’s a term for these types of feelings can be an incredible relief for some.
Once you’re aware of the phenomenon, you can combat your own imposter syndrome by collecting and revisiting positive feedback and achievements.
Reframe your thinking
If you have long-held beliefs about your lack of skill or experience, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Question whether your thoughts are rational and write down your accomplishments, then compare that with your self-assessment.
For example, your management team may decide to give you a raise which may result in feelings of guilt or stress, because you believe you don’t deserve it. However, this is where you should reflect and review as to why you may be are having these thoughts.
Try to celebrate even the smallest successes.
Invalidating any of your achievements as ‘not good enough’ fuels the feelings of not belonging. Resist that by listing your successes and allowing them to inspire you emotionally. Over time, this will give you a realistic picture of your accomplishments and help affirm your self-worth.
Many organisations now regularly acknowledge hard work publicly as a way to boost motivation, wellbeing and productivity. This can help individuals practise self-acknowledgement strategies to help tackle feelings of imposter syndrome. If you think you might be negatively affected by symptoms of imposter syndrome, try contacting your company HR Department for support and advice.
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