Everyone can feel like they don’t belong now and again. When these feelings strike, a massage, vacation, or a few mental health days can get you back on your feet. But, if you tend to have a live-streaming dialogue that attempts to leave you feeling like a fraud at work, it might be something more. The good news is that you’re not alone, and you’re probably in the company of high achievers. The bad news is that you might be struggling with Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon first described in the 1970s by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. They identified it as a form of self-doubt that often manifests itself as an inability to accept success. Many people who have Imposter Syndrome feel that they are successful because of luck or good timing, rather than the hard work and effort they’ve put forth. Some people even think that others give them more credit than they deserve.
Imposter syndrome isn’t an official medical or psychological diagnosis, however, experts in the field of psychology acknowledge that it’s real and can be accompanied by the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Who’s at risk of Imposter Syndrome?
The simple answer is everyone. It can affect workers from the top of the ladder all the way down to the bottom. It can strike businessmen and working women alike. In fact, it even affects famous leaders and celebrities.
Serena Williams, who is one of the best tennis players ever to grace the earth admitted to copying her older sister. She shared with Oprah Winfrey that it was tough to stop being her sister and just become the person she was. Actor Tom Hanks told NPR in an interview, “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?” Even Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou admitted to worrying that she feared others would find out that she was a fraud with each book she wrote.
While anyone can experience these unfounded feelings of not deserving success, there are a few things that can place you at a higher-than-average risk. If you have high expectations and tend to be a high-achiever, it’s common to feel like a failure, even when you’re only failing a smaller percentage of the time.
At one time, it was thought that Imposter Syndrome only affected women. Today, we know that both men and women can experience these feelings. However, women tend to struggle with Imposter Syndrome a bit more than men. Despite the growth of women in executive-level leadership, many might still struggle if they were chosen over a man or another woman that seemed more qualified or confident. Because many women and people of color must work harder than others to achieve success, they can easily find themselves feeling that their success is unearned.
Other situations that can increase your risk of struggling with these feelings include any circumstances that can have you feeling undervalued or overworked. You might also start questioning if you belong if you’re the target of harassment or bullying in the workplace, which affects about 14% of American workers.
Putting Imposter Syndrome to rest
If you’re ready to overcome imposter syndrome, here are a few sure-fire ways:
Talk about it
One of the best things you can do about these feelings is to make them known. Now, we’re not advocating blasting it on all social media channels, but rather, finding one or two trusted friends who you can talk to openly. You might even find that sharing your feelings can take away some of the power of Imposter Syndrome.
Give yourself a break
If you feel like you should always know the answer — it might be time to give yourself a break. Recognize that being wrong doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent or worthy of success, it just means you’re human.
Picture your success
If you’re preparing for a presentation or a big project, take a few minutes to visualize your success. Think about what it would look like to deliver a seamless performance. Imagine the look on everyone’s face when you deliver a well-thought message. Whatever it is that you have to do, flip the script on your failure, and think about your success.
Quiet your inner voice
The next time you hear that all too familiar voice that tells you that you’re not good enough or that someone will find out that you don’t belong — quiet it. Try using an affirmation to put yourself back in control. Here are a few you can use:
- I am worthy
- I am talented
- I am smart
- I am enough
- I deserve this
Set a new goal
If you struggle with Imposter Syndrome on the daily, it might be unrealistic to think that it will just go away. It might be time to set and reach a new goal. Create a plan each day to get through the one specific meeting or presentation without these feelings. Just remember that it’s okay to have “imposter moments,” you just don’t want to live there.
Moving forward just as you are
You’re a smart, strong, successful person. You’ve earned every promotion, job, or kudos you’ve received. So, the next time your internal imposter dialogue rears its ugly head, use these strategies to quiet the beast and remind it just how qualified you are.