This article explores the common phenomenon of imposter syndrome, its causes, and its effects, and provides practical strategies for overcoming it in both personal and professional life.
Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon experienced by anyone, from college students to CEOs of major corporations. Despite significant evidence to the contrary, individuals with imposter syndrome feel inadequate and unsuccessful in their jobs. Psychologists define imposter syndrome as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information to the contrary. Chronic self-doubt and feeling like an intellectual fraud are common symptoms of imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome can seriously affect a person’s daily life at work and home. When people continuously feel inadequate, it can severely impair their interactions with others. Imposter feelings can be split into four subcategories. First, there’s the feeling of being a fake, where people believe they do not deserve their success or current position. Second, people with imposter syndrome will likely attribute achievements to luck or other external reasons. Third, imposter feelings lead people to attribute success to things apart from themselves. Finally, among women, there is a common belief that “charm” is a primary reason for success.
But why is imposter syndrome so common? Experts believe that cyclical societal norms and expectations are typically the culprits. Researchers have found that families often label children with particular expectations, and children carry such labels and expectations well into adulthood. As a result, the “sensitive” child may end up doubting her intelligence and any achievement she receives. The same can be said for a child perceived as “perfect” or “superior.” This child could grow up believing that she is only average and not worthy of her success. In the case of women, imposter syndrome is regularly linked to the lack of women in high-level jobs.
Most high-achieving leaders have likely experienced imposter syndrome at one time or another. However, it’s prevalent in high-achieving women. During a study conducted by Georgia State University psychologists in the 1970s, more than 150 women exhibited symptoms of what they called the imposter phenomenon. More recently, prominent men and women like Tom Hanks, Margaret Chan, Matt Higgins, and actress Emma Watson have cited the imposter issue. In addition, studies strongly suggest that women tend to attribute their successes to external factors, while men are more likely to recognize their inner talent.
So how can imposter syndrome be overcome? The first step is to internalize the role you played in success. Please take the opportunity to understand that when something good happens, you have a part to play in it. Focusing on providing value can also help. People with imposter syndrome are often concerned with the results of their contribution. Instead of obsessing about how you will be perceived, focus on genuinely helping others. Try to make an offer useful for the project’s advancement. It could be as simple as offering a hand where you might not usually. This puts you in the position to succeed and receive the support of others.
Collecting positive feedback and creating a record of compliments and positive comments can boost you when needed. It’s also essential to talk to someone about your feelings. Keeping your sentiments to yourself can be as harmful as anything. Finding someone to open up to and trust, whether a friend, family member, Empowerment Foundation coach, or coworker, can help you overcome your imposter feelings. This person can likely tell you, you are not a fraud and may even tell you they have similar feelings about themselves.
To summarize, imposter syndrome affects many people and can be overcome with the right mindset. Strategies to beat imposter syndrome include internalizing success, providing value, collecting feedback, and talking to someone about your feelings. Reframing negative self-talk and seeking a mentor or coach can also be helpful. By taking proactive steps to combat imposter syndrome, we can build confidence, improve self-esteem, and achieve our goals. Success is not just about external validation but also growth and learning. Embrace your unique strengths and focus on continuous improvement.