A few weeks ago, I thought about how far I’ve come in life. It amazed me. I have taken risks and worked hard to be who I am and where I am today. However, I had a hard time believing it. Sometimes, I felt I did not deserve all the success and get worried that everything would go wrong. Despite overcoming similar challenges in the past and reassurance from my family and friends, I continue to struggle with these feelings.
At different times in our lives, we’ve felt this way too, unable to accept our success, feeling that we probably just got lucky and that others see us in ways that aren’t authentic.
Have you ever felt like this?
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are many people who are managing the same feelings and thoughts, it is known as IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome also known as Imposter Phenomenon is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments despite evident success.
The term Imposter Syndrome was coined in 1978 by Clinical Psychologist Pauline Chance and Guzanne Imes when they observed that high achievers were unable to internalize, accept their success, often attributing their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability and fear that others will eventually unmask them as an imposter.
What are the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?
The core features of Imposter Syndrome are the following beliefs and feelings:
•You will inevitably let everybody down.
•You experience catastrophic thinking related to consequences of any mistake (i.e I will be fired from my job or not get that promotion since I came to a meeting five minutes late)
•Anxiety about success as you think it’s due to luck.
It is important to note that each person experiences imposter syndrome differently and with varying intensity.
Do you identify with more than one of these types? This is normal.
Causes of Imposter Syndrome
Why does Imposter Syndrome happen? Where does it come from?
There are various reasons why people experience the syndrome.
•Family Upbringing: A child’s upbringing and family dynamics can play an important role. Parenting styles, childhood trauma, verbal abuse, emotional abuse may contribute to the development of imposter syndrome in children. Studies suggest that people who come from families characterized by high levels of conflict with low support or love maybe more likely to experience imposter syndrome.
•Transition or Change: Imposter syndrome can be exacerbated during the time of transition or change. A new job, a new role or a change in level such as starting university may leave you feeling as though you don’t belong and are not capable. Also, becoming a parent can trigger these feelings. The pressure to succeed combined with lack of experience can trigger feelings of inadequacy in these roles, levels and settings.
•Intersectionality and Systematic Bias: Recently, there has been increasing focus on the impact of intersectional factors on the experience of imposter syndrome.
Imposter feelings can occur when you are the minority. For example: You could be working in a company or team where you are the only person of colour. This can make you feel like you don’t belong, despite your qualifications and achievements.
•Traditional and Gender norm: Gender norms affect men and women. There are fewer women than men holding senior positions. Despite the progress being made in representation, a woman’s success in career is compared with the impact on her family, which doesn’t happen to men. These types of conflicting message hamper women from owing their success. The pressure society places on men to demonstrate high productivity which places enormous pressure and expectation.
•Personality: Certain personality traits have also been linked to a higher risk of experiencing imposter syndrome. Some traits or characteristics that may play a role include:
1. Perfectionism: You might think that there is a perfect “script” for conversations and that you cannot say the wrong word. You probably have trouble asking for help from others.
2. Low self-efficacy
•Social Anxiety: A person with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) may feel as though they don’t belong in social or performance situations. You may be delivering a presentation and feel as though you just need to get through it before anyone realizes you really don’t belong there.
Imposter Syndrome: Do you have it?
If you are wondering whether you struggle with Imposter Syndrome, I invite you to consider the following questions:
•Do you feel that the opportunities you’ve had so far are due to luck?
•Do you compare yourself to other people?
•Do you fear that you won’t live up to your expectations?
•Do you think that you do not deserve the success that you’ve had?
If you have answered “Yes” to these questions, it’s likely that you struggle with feeling like an imposter.
Effects of Imposter Syndrome
It can affect anyone no matter your social status, work, background, skill, level or degree of expertise. People who experience Imposter Syndrome tend not to talk about how they are feeling with anyone and struggle in silence. Eventually, these feelings worsen and may lead to depression.
How to overcome Imposter Syndrome
To get past Imposter Syndrome, you need to start asking yourself some hard questions, such as:
•Do you agonize over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work?
•Do you downplay your success, even in areas where you are genuinely very skilled?
•What core beliefs do you hold about yourself?
•Do you believe you are worthy of good things?
To move past these feelings, you need to become comfortable confronting some of those deeply ingrained benefits you hold about yourself.
This exercise can be hard because you may not even realize that you hold them but here are some techniques you can use:
•Change the way you think: You can control your thoughts or choose which thoughts you focus on and believe in. How can you change the way you think?
1. Build a personal relationship with God: Jesus died so we could have a deep, passionate, personal relationship with God. He gave us something deep and much better. He gave us access to God so that we could be in a close relationship with God. The closer you get to God, the more He lovingly and graciously changes you from the inside out (Ezekiel 36:20).
2. Pray: Romans 12:2 “Let God transform you by changing the way you think”. Prayer solves every single thing.
3. Practice Gratitude: Here’s what has worked countless times for me and what I know will work for you too. The next time you’re wrestling in your mind, find something you can thank God for. Live a life of gratitude. As you practice gratitude, you will see your life begin to change and things get better and better.
•Be Vulnerable: Opening up about your feelings can be a great way to get external support in overcoming Imposter Syndrome. Also, seek a therapist if needed.
•Write positive affirmation: I usually write positive affirmations and place it on my desks, wardrobe and books. This way I’ll look at them everyday. Be your biggest cheerleader. We need to lift ourselves up daily, speak positive words over our life and career.
•Track your accomplishments: You can write down achievements and track all your accomplishments in an easily accessible location (e.g. Diary, computer, phone). File away emails that highlight your good work and create a ‘feel good’ file. When Imposter feelings arise, take a look at this file to remind yourself that your achievements are real.
•Take baby steps: Don’t focus on doing things perfectly but rather, do things reasonably well and reward yourself for taking actions. Always remember to celebrate your little wins.
•Stop comparing yourself to others: Comparison is the thief of joy. Everyone has unique potential and experiences. Discover your purpose. Be genuinely interested in learning more. Bring your focus to your own skills and accomplishments. As you practice your skills, you will build more confidence. Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some faults with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging.
•Use social media moderately: We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that does not match who you really are, it will only make the feeling of being an imposter worse. Use social media for inspiration, use them to enjoy seeing other people doing well but do not use it to rush yourself or force yourself on a lifestyle you’re not ready to maintain. Trust your timing.
•Refuse to let it hold you back: No matter how much you feel like you don’t belong, do not let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Keep going!
•Do not fear failure. Learn from it.
•Show kindness and compassion to yourself: Be kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned. Don’t be hard on yourself, instead try asking yourself these questions:
•What can I learn from this situation?
•How can I remedy this problem?
•What can I do differently next time?
We’ve all been wrong more than once. Many well-known entrepreneurs have failed before finding success. Great inventions have happened through error.
•Acknowledge your success: People struggling with Imposter feelings find it hard to accept praise and own or talk about their achievement. If you’re someone who feels this way, you may find yourself saying phrases like “it’s nothing”, “it was luck” or even trying to turn the recognition towards the other person. Next time, try saying THANK YOU with a smile.
I constantly have to remind myself of all the positive messages I try to share with others. I may forget to walk the work but I am NOT an imposter.
The truth is… I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS.
We ALL are work in progress. I am still learning. I seek to inspire self-love in others as I navigate it myself. The relationship with oneself is so intricate and ever-evolving. As we evolve, so does the way we think of ourselves. While I am learning to love myself, it involves accepting myself where I am:
A WORK IN PROGRESS
If you ever feel like an Imposter, say these words of encouragement by VIOLA DAVIS (American Actress) like you mean it because you do.
YOU ARE WORTH IT
And the next time you hesitate before going after something you want,
the next time you blush and brush off a compliment,
the next time you doubt your place in the world, in the workplace, in your home or in your skin, say these to yourself,
I AM WORTH IT
•Dr Rashimi Narayang, A Medical Doctor, Psychiatrist and Leadership Coach
•Guillermo Lechugh, a Management 3.0 Facilitator
Have you ever experienced Imposter Syndrome?
Have you met or lived with a person who has experienced/is experiencing Imposter Syndrome?
What’s your thoughts on Imposter Syndrome?
Please feel free to share in the comment below.
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•How to stop Overthinking