The struggle resulting from imposter syndrome is real. Working in a new environment or landing one’s first job seems to trigger it. But what’s worrying is how this phenomenon can affect one’s thinking and attitude toward work.
While it is not classified as a medical condition or mental disorder, it’s essential to deal with the negative thoughts and feelings accompanying this syndrome. Let’s unmask this imposter syndrome and the practical ways to face and get past it.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
People with imposter syndrome start a task with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, leading to overworking, procrastinating, or doing both. Even when the result is successful, they attribute it to pure luck, hard work, or other factors. This thinking makes them feel like a fraud waiting to be exposed and perpetuates the cycle of doubt.
Needless to say, these individuals are competent. In the case of high achievers, who are more prone to this phenomenon based on studies, they can’t attribute their successes to their abilities despite solid proof. Notably, the syndrome has been linked to perfectionism and fear of failure.
Individuals who feel like intellectual imposters believe they are undeserving of their success or feel guilty of them. The constant worry of being exposed or tagged as such can result in anxiety and depression.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome?
1. Recognise That It Happens to Anyone
This psychological experience can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and education.
Drs. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes were the first to describe or coin the term in their research on professional women. Dr Clance’s imposter cycle model demonstrates the patterns of behaviour, as noted above. Later studies show that the phenomenon is also prevalent in other groups of people.
As a 2011 paper published in the International Journal of Behavioural Science notes, you can suffer from this syndrome if you can’t reckon with your success.
2. Talk, Share Your Feelings
No one talks about feeling like a failure or being in doubts all the time. But bottling up such thoughts will not do any good either.
It’s one of those difficult conversations that you will have to do and get over with. Talk with your friends and co-workers. Also, speak with your boss about your struggles that affect your work performance clearly and objectively.
3. Work Smart
Harbouring imposter feelings can compel you to work harder than everyone else and prove yourself all the time. There is this perceived pressure that you have to put in longer hours, to the point of being the last person to go home and expend more energy for the same result.
However, you can be productive and still accomplish your task within a reasonable time. Plan, strategise and devise shortcuts that get the job done most productively. Working with a game plan and a set time limit can also prevent you from procrastinating.
4. Celebrate Small Wins
Fears of committing mistakes and failing can easily replace any relief that comes from completing an assignment. Counter these thoughts by celebrating your successes. Treat yourself to a nice meal. Meet your friends to unwind. Buy a book or something.
Essentially, recognise that you did something incredible that calls for a celebration. No matter how trivial they seem, these wins will help boost your confidence and, more importantly, make you feel good. You can certainly tap into those positive memories when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
5. Face Failures
For some people, the slightest mistakes can make them feel like a failure. So they put in more effort to ensure they avoid failing at all cost.
Others set themselves up to fail and thus shield themselves from disappointments should they fail. This self-sabotaging behaviour will only negatively affect their productivity but dent their self-esteem in the long run. It’s not even about fear of failure anymore but a fear of success. Arianna Huffington once said, “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” We couldn’t agree more.
Sure, it doesn’t feel good that the project you put together did not meet expectations or require substantial revisions. One’s work can be a series of failures, from not getting a promotion or a raise to not meeting the daily production quota. There are undoubtedly lessons to be had here and a promise that you’ll do better next time.
Self-defeatist thoughts can be paralysing, and it’s not going to be easy overcoming them. But you can rely on your true self and trust your abilities more.