Imposter Syndrome: What is it? What action can you take if you suffer from it?

What is Imposter Syndrome?

According to Wikipedia:

“Impostor syndrome is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. “

The theory suggests several behaviours of high-achieving women with impostor syndrome:

Gifted people often work hard in order to prevent people from discovering that they are “impostors”. This hard work often leads to more praise and success, which perpetuates the impostor feelings and fears of being “found out”. The “impostor” person may feel they need to work two or three times as hard, so over-prepare, tinker and obsess over details, says Young. This can lead to burn-out and sleep deprivation.
Feeling of being phony
Those with impostor feelings often attempt to give supervisors and professors the answers that they believe they want, which often leads to an increase in feeling like they are “being a fake“. If shown evidence of their competence or that they may suffer from a case of impostor syndrome, they tend to doubt themselves even more.
Use of charm
 Connected to this, gifted women often use their intuitive receptiveness and charm to gain approval and praise from supervisors and seek out relationships with supervisors in order to help them increase their abilities intellectually and creatively. However, when the supervisor gives them praise or recognition, they feel that this praise is based on charm and not on ability. This may also be interpreted as manipulating others for personal gain.
Avoiding display of confidence
Another way that a person can perpetuate their impostor feelings is to avoid showing any confidence in their abilities. A person dealing with impostor feelings may believe that if they actually believe in their intelligence and abilities they may be rejected by others. Therefore, they may convince themselves that they are not intelligent or do not deserve success to avoid this.

Imposter Syndrome is often talked about as a “female” issue, but actually men suffer from it too. Everyone has thoughts about “why am I here?” or “how did I get here?” at some point in their lives and it is important to remember that you are there because people want you to be!

So we also suffer from it a little bit and if you are in at the deep end do you have what it take to take ownership of these feelings and shake them off? Let’s hope so!

Take action by identifying your symptoms and think about how you can address each of these.

What can you do if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

  • acknowledge the “imposter syndrome” problem and let go.
  • accept your successes. celebrate them.
  • try to help others and provide value.
  • keep a “positive feedback file” – this is great for confidence boosting, CVs, appraisals and other career development opportunities.
  • stop comparing yourself to others.
  • write a journal entry to ‘get it out there’
  • learn that it is okay to not have the answer to everything. Say what you can. Admit that you don’t know the answer and say you will find out.
  • admit that you haven’t found the perfect solution but you’ve come close enough.
  • talk to someone about it and share your feelings.