Imposter syndrome, also known as fraud syndrome or imposter experience, is when someone feels they aren’t as capable as others think and fears they’ll be exposed. Imposter syndrome involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.
I’m going to be open and vulnerable with you for a moment. That’s exactly how I’ve felt and even now it creeps up every now and then. Does the following sound familiar to you?
“What am I doing here?”
“I don’t belong.”
“I’m a total fraud and sooner or later, everyone’s going to find out”
You’re not alone. Up to 80% of people in a study done in 2019 have reported feeling like an imposter at work at some point. This can affect anyone in any profession, from grad students to top executives.
Imposter feelings are a conflict between your own self-perception and the way other perceive you. Even when you’re being told you’re awesome at what you do, you write off your successes to timing and good luck. You don’t believe you earned the right to be praised based on your own merits and you fear that others will eventually realize the same thing. As a result, you could end up pressuring yourself to work harder than you need to in order to:
• Keep others from recognizing your shortcomings and failures
• Become worthy of roles you believe you don’t deserve
• Make up for what you consider your lack of knowledge
• Ease feelings of guilt for “tricking” people
Yes, it’s important to work hard to be successful. What’s not helpful or good for your mental health is when your accomplishments don’t reassure you and you consider them more as a product of your efforts to maintain a certain image you have in mind for success. Over time this can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and guilt. Striving for perfection and then feeling guilty or worthless when you can’t achieve it (because let’s face it, perfection does not exist) will lead to burn out and feeling overwhelmed.
So what can we do to combat imposter syndrome? Here’s what you can do to help ease your mind
Talk to a trusted friend or mentor about it to help these feelings feel less overwhelming. To be honest, I did this very recently and it helped me tremendously. I texted my mentor and simply told her “I’m feeling the imposter syndrome pretty hard today :( “ and she called me right away. After we talked, I felt a huge load lift from my shoulders and I was ready to hop back into the saddle.
To the next point, avoid the urge to do everything yourself. Create a network of support from your classmates, academic peers, and coworkers to create a mutual space of support. You simply can’t achieve everything on your own and by having a support system in place, they can offer you guidance and support, validate your strengths, and encourage your efforts to grow.
This is a tough one! Especially in today’s world with information overload and all the grand displays of accomplishments throughout social media. However, everyone has their own unique abilities and you are where you are because someone recognized your talents and your potential. You may not excel at everything and that’s ok! No one can “do it all.” Even if it appears like they do, you may not know the whole story.
Instead of allowing others’ success highlight your flaws, consider exploring ways to develop abilities that interest you.
At the end of the day, success doesn’t require perfection. Like I mentioned earlier, perfection is impossible to achieve, so failing to achieve it doesn’t make you a fraud. Offer yourself kindness and compassion instead of judgment and self-doubt to help maintain a realistic perspective to motivate yourself for self-growth.
Remember, you are NOT a fraud and you’re doing a great job! :)