No, we’re not talking about the game that’s currently sweeping the internet by storm. Although there are impostors in Among Us, the feeling of being an ‘impostor’ in real life is much worse than having to betray fellow aliens on a space ship.
Have you ever had thoughts about not being good enough for what you’ve accomplished in life? Do you often doubt your skill, feel inadequate, and question if you’re actually cut out for your job? Or have you felt like a fraud, that any time everyone around you is going to discover you’ve got no talent at all despite facts that prove otherwise? There’s a term for that: impostor syndrome.
What is impostor syndrome?
Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term impostor syndrome in 1978. They described the phenomenon as an individual’s belief that they are not intelligent and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. It’s when you doubt your success and convince yourself that you’ve come this far only due to luck and not because of your talent and qualifications. Impostor syndrome is living in fear that one day, your employers or the people around you will find out you’re not all that great. Sound familiar?
Who can experience it?
Everyone. From teenagers venturing out into the world for the first time to young adults who work hard to get their dream jobs to even “successful” people, the ones who own million-dollar companies and win prestigious awards also fall victim to impostor syndrome.
Ted-Ed cites acclaimed author Maya Angelou and renowned scientist Albert Einstein as victims of impostor syndrome. There’s some level of comfort in the fact that even these famous people feel the same as we do. Ted-Ed also mentions that we are in a “pluralistic ignorance” situation, meaning we all doubt ourselves in private, regardless of our status.
What causes impostor syndrome?
Initially, it was widely believed that the people who typically fall victim to impostor syndrome were high-achieving women. However, research has shown that it can affect a wide range of people regardless of gender, age, or race.
PsychCentral says that impostor syndrome “stems from low self-esteem that makes us afraid of being discovered and judged inadequate or incompetent.” Experiencing impostor syndrome might be triggered by a couple of factors such as the environment you grew up in or suddenly being thrust into a new job or handed a new role. You feel anxious, a little out of your depth, and feeling like you don’t deserve it.
So we know a lot of people are going through this horrible experience, how do we go about overcoming it? How can we use it to our benefit?
Start with talking about it to your peers
“Talking about your imposter syndrome is the first step to dealing with it, rather than suffering in silence,” says psychologist Richard Orbé-Austin.
Surround yourself with a strong support system, not just people who would tell you to “get over it.” Talk to your friends and colleagues and you might find that you’re going through the same thing. You’re not the only one doubting yourself. You should also consider talking to your bosses or mentors and asking them for feedback on your work. Be proactive and let them tell you what area you should improve on. More often than not we just need validation that we’re on the right path.
Be kinder to yourself
We are our worst critic. Quash the inner narrative whispering that you only got the job or that promotion because they were short-staffed or that you did well on a project because you had a lot of help. Don’t underestimate yourself. We believe that we should give credit to where credit is due so why can’t we give it to ourselves? And if you want more concrete proof, list down your strengths and achievements to remind yourself about the facts.
Avoid comparing yourself to others
You should know by now that we all run at our own pace. Some people your age have had greater achievements and some people older than you are only beginning to discover their passion. Looking at other people might fuel your feelings of incompetency when you’re anything but. Instead of envying them, recognize your own growth and progress.
Use impostor syndrome to your benefit
Here’s a great 13-minute TedTalk recommendation for you. Entrepreneur and CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes talks about how he has struggled with feelings of being a fraud and not being good enough even after years of being CEO. He managed to put a label on those feelings — impostor syndrome. But after finding out about it, he didn’t sigh in defeat and resign himself to that way of thinking. Instead of freezing, he decided he would try to learn and be better.
Mike talks about not questioning yourself but instead challenging your knowledge. You’re afraid of doing this one thing or being handed a responsibility, then you should do everything you can to be better. You’ve got the qualifications, it’s time to back it up with knowledge.
So the next time you feel a little out of your depth…
Try your best to “harness the situation” as Mike put it. So you feel as if you’re not good enough and you don’t deserve the success coming your way, then work harder to make sure you do. No one has ever grown in any field just by sitting still and folding their hands together. Doubting yourself is normal, we all have our bad days after all but it’s how you react to it that makes a difference.
What are your tips in combatting impostor syndrome?