Have you ever felt that you don’t deserve your success? Have you ever encountered the guilt of fraud, despite your career accomplishments? Has it crossed your mind that your success is just a matter of luck and that sooner or later, people will find out you are not as competent as they thought you were? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may have experienced Impostor Syndrome.
What is the Impostor Syndrome?
“Impostor Syndrome” describes a psychological pattern characterized by persistent feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and anxiety about being exposed as a fraud, although external evidence may suggest otherwise. Research from 2016 shows that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life.
Impostor Syndrome is common in competitive working environments, such as medicine, law and business. Employees working in such environments may feel they need to be more skilled or experienced than their colleagues, even though they may have achieved significant career accomplishments.
It affects both men and women, although studies suggest that women are more likely to experience it. Impostor Syndrome can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and burnout, hurting work performance and job satisfaction.
Shipping employees may also experience Impostor Syndrome when promoted to higher positions or given new responsibilities. They may feel like they do not deserve the promotion or are incapable of handling the new duties.
Did you know?
Albert Einstein had described himself as an involuntary swindler whose work did not deserve as much attention as it had received.
What causes Impostor Syndrome?
- Perfectionism: Perfectionists tend to set extremely high standards and feel they must meet them every time. When they fall short, they see themselves as failures and question their abilities.
- Childhood experiences: These can be carried throughout adulthood and significantly affect every aspect of life. If someone is convinced at an early stage that they are not good enough, they may also struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt at later stages of life.
- Social comparisons: People who engage in frequent social comparisons tend to feel inadequate when they perceive others as more successful or competent than themselves.
- Attribution errors: People who experience Impostor Syndrome tend to attribute their successes to external factors, such as luck or help from others, while attributing their failures to personal characteristics, such as lack of ability or effort.
- Workplace culture: Toxic working environments are everywhere. A typical example of toxic culture cultivates competition or comparison, which can, in turn, contribute to Impostor Syndrome. For instance, if there is much pressure to achieve or be the best, employees may feel like they’re not good enough if they don’t meet these expectations. Similarly, if there is a lack of recognition or support, employees may doubt their abilities and feel not valued.
How can Impostor Syndrome affect my work performance?
Impostor Syndrome can harm work performance in several ways, including:
- Procrastination: Those experiencing Impostor Syndrome may procrastinate on tasks out of fear that they will not perform them well enough.
- Self-doubt: Impostor Syndrome may cause people to question their abilities and second-guess their decisions, leading to indecisiveness and inaction.
- Lack of confidence: People with Impostor Syndrome may avoid taking on new challenges or seeking promotions because they fear they need to improve.
- Burnout: Feeling like a fraud may lead you to work longer hours and take on more responsibilities to prove yourself. This can lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Tips to deal with Impostor Syndrome
1. Reframe your thinking: Instead of thinking of yourself as a fraud or impostor, think of yourself as a learner or beginner. This can pave the way to a growth mindset which is a big step toward self-development.
2. Recognize and acknowledge your accomplishments: When you start to doubt yourself, take a moment to reflect on your past achievements. Write down a list of your accomplishments, big or small, and revisit them regularly to remind yourself of your capabilities.
3. Change your self-talk: How we talk to ourselves matters. If you notice negative self-talk creeping in, challenge it with positive affirmations. Instead of telling yourself “I am not good enough”, tell yourself “I am capable and I deserve this success.”
4. Focus on growth, not perfection: Don’t get caught up in the idea of being perfect. Instead, focus on progress and development. Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate small wins along the way.
5. Seek support: Talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist, having someone to listen and offer support can make a big difference.
6. Practice self-care: Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge. Exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones are all great ways to practice self-care and reduce stress.
7. Embrace failure: Remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from taking risks and trying new things.
8. Remember you are not alone: Impostor Syndrome affects many people, even those who appear to have achieved all their career aspirations. Remembering that there are many people like you can help you embrace your thoughts and feel less isolated and more empowered to overcome your doubts.
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