Ever wondered if someone else would be better doing the role you’re doing? Or are you convinced you fluked the thing that everyone is congratulating you for? If there’s one emotion that many of us can relate to, sadly, it’s the sensation of not being up to scratch. From feeling like we’re just scraping by in our job, to wondering why our partner is even with us (they know everything after all), imposter syndrome is the nagging, underlying feeling that seems to undercut the positives in our lives. However, there are ways of beating it – read on to find out how.
This is not just a women’s problem
“Imposter syndrome was originally thought to only affect women; however, research now shows that it doesn’t discriminate,” says Dr Jessamy Hibberd, clinical psychologist and author of The Imposter Cure: How to stop feeling like a fraud and escape the mind-trap of imposter syndrome (Published by Aster) £8.88. “We now know it affects both men and women, occurs across different cultures and it causes problems for everyone from students to CEO’s. And, it’s not just in work we feel it. It can affect our relationships, our friendships, as well as our confidence as parents.” A study in 2018 found two thirds of women experienced imposter syndrome over the course of year. The same study also discovered that employees were not just experiencing detrimental effects at work, but within their home as well. “Research shows that groups underrepresented or different from the norm, be that due to gender, race, sexual identity, socio-economic group or disability, are more likely to experience imposter syndrome,” says Dr Hibberd. “However, society plays a big part as well. Being a woman in work is still a relatively new thing. There’s still a judgement that goes with it, that working hard can negatively affect your family (despite this never being a thought for working men). Another common thought is that not having a family can lead you to being judged, so you really can’t win. Plus, men and women talk about success very differently. Women tend to play themselves down, they don’t talk about their achievements, it’s almost seen as boastful for a woman to do this, yet again with men it’s admired. There’s still a long way to go to change these things, but by taking about what we do, talking about our success it allows this to change and for us to connect to all we’ve done.”
The biggest problem with imposter syndrome is that it’s hard to realise you’re suffering from it. However, if you answer yes to any of the following, you might just be feeling it’s effects.
- Are you afraid people might find out that you’re not actually as clever or competent as they think?
- Do you believe you don’t deserve your success?
- Do you feel at times that your success has been largely down to luck?
- Is it hard for you to accept compliments or recognise your achievements?
- Do you compare yourself to others and imagine they know what they’re doing and are more competent than you?
If that all sounds scarily familiar, don’t panic. There are ways to stop imposter syndrome from taking over your mindset, as Dr Hibberd explains:
Externalise the imposter voice
“You need to see that this is not your voice, but the voice of your fears. You may feel like an imposter, but that doesn’t mean you are one. Develop a compassionate voice instead; it’s the perfect antidote to the selfcritical and perfectionist thinking. Next time you feel discomfort, remind yourself that this is just how you feel, not how things are, and remember thoughts aren’t facts.”
No-one knows it all
“Even if you hold a position of knowledge or you have been in a role for a long time, you’re not expected to know everything. That idea is very restrictive. If all the great minds thought they knew everything, no one could advance and there would be no exhilarating leaps of faith. Remind yourself you just need to know enough to be able to find out. Remember failure, self-doubt, insecurity they’re all normal. The imposter voice tells lies!”
Connect to your success
“To overcome imposter syndrome, you have to connect to everything you’ve done. This means taking on board success so it just becomes something you know about yourself. What this does is let you look at the full picture of your life, rather than just the bits you’re unhappy with. Write down what you do and all your achievements as if it’s a CV. If something comes into your head, note it down. Don’t question it!”
• Your job and responsibilities. Exams and qualifications.
• Job promotions and salary increases.
• Compliments and praise from friends, family or colleagues. Difficult situations you’ve overcome.
• Explore every achievement you can think of – no matter how big or small.
“Read back through what you’ve written down. See what you’ve accomplished? Imagine if I told you someone else had done all these things. What would you think of them as a person? What if someone else saw this list – what might they think of you? What would your 18-year-old self think of where you are now? If you have time, come back to this exercise and spend longer over it. This list gives you a very different picture from the one you hold in your head and you should be using this list to form your ideas of who you are and what you’re capable of. Keep it in mind, hold it tight, make sure you reread this list every day and be ready to add to and build on this new belief. There’s no issue with how you’re doing by anyone else’s standards, it’s how you view yourself that’s the problem.”