Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to label you as a ‘fraud’ – or discover you don’t actually deserve your job and/or accomplishments? Do you feel unworthy of your successes?
You’re not alone! These feelings are known as impostor syndrome, or what psychologists often call impostor phenomenon. Impostor syndrome – the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications – was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, they theorized that women were uniquely affected by impostor syndrome.
Since then, research has shown that both men and women experience impostor feelings – and today, impostor syndrome can apply to anyone “who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes,” says psychologist Audrey Ervin.
So, what can you do to combat those pesky feelings of inadequacy – especially when they’re not based in reality?
- Look at the evidence. We are scientists after all. What sort of goals have you set for yourself? Are you meeting them? Exceeding them? If the evidence suggests that you are doing a great job at work, why can’t you believe it? Put aside the self-doubt and look at the data.
- Celebrate your successes. Confident people own their accomplishments. Individuals that suffer from impostor syndrome often think their successes are the result of getting lucky, slipping by, or having outside help. Even if you “got lucky” or had outside help, it was still your success. Own it. Stop feeling guilty or not worthy of your success and celebrate your victories.
- Remember, lots of people feel this way. Feeling like a fraud is normal. Impostor syndrome is widespread, but rarely talked about; each person feels like they are keeping a secret. Psychological research done in the early 1980’s estimated that 70 percent of all people feel like fakes at one time or another. In reality, the same people you fear will expose you as a fraud are probably feeling like an impostor themselves.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Sometimes faking it is okay. If you don’t feel confident, pretend you do; by imitating confidence, competence and an optimistic mindset, you can realize those qualities in your real life.
- Stay humble. Suffering from a little bit of impostor syndrome is okay. It keeps you motivated to keep learning and working hard. Just don’t let your self-doubt prevent you from going after a big promotion or enjoying your successes.
- https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-different-types-of-imposter-syndrome-and-5-ways-to-battle-each-one – The Five Types of Impostor Syndromes
- https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud – Feeling like a Fraud? (Article from the American Psychological Association)
- https://fairygodboss.com/articles/imposter-syndrome – Are You Suffering from Impostor Syndrome? Here’s How to Tell – with helpful hints and suggestions.
- https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469 – Commonalities between Impostor Syndrome and Social Anxiety Disorder
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQUxL4Jm1Lo – Fun Animated TED clip on Impostor Syndrome, including Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whyUPLJZljE – The Surprising Solution to the Impostor Syndrome | Lou Solomon | TEDxCharlotte
Food for Thought Questions
Why are you comparing yourself to a veiled version of reality?
What do you truly enjoy even when no one else is there?
Do you credit your success to chance, connections or some other external factor?
Do you deflect responsibility for your actions?
Do you feel you have something to prove?
Do you self-sabotage?
Are you a workaholic – and/or do you avoid challenging yourself?
Are you a perfectionist?
Do you have a hard time receiving constructive criticism?
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