Have you ever felt like everyone around you knows exactly what they are doing while you haven’t got a clue? How about that all your successes are about luck, while all your failings come down to you? If your answer is yes, you have likely experienced imposter syndrome.
While it may feel isolating and confronting, it’s something that a lot of people experience. In fact, more than half of the employees at Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have admitted to experiencing these feelings.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the constant, nagging worry that your success is all a fluke — that one day, you’ll be called out for not having the skills to actually be in the position you’re in, and everyone will realize you don’t belong.
It’s feeling like everyone around you knows exactly what they’re doing, while you have no clue — when in reality, it is your knowledge, skill, and effort that brought you your success to begin with.
People can experience imposter syndrome in a number of ways, including:
- Perfectionism: Not being able to recognize or celebrate success and only paying attention to the flaws
- Overworking: Spending excess time on a project and potentially becoming burnt out
- Undermining Achievements: Not allowing yourself to take ownership of success and only pointing out the mistakes
- Fear of Failure: Putting off new tasks or challenges and reluctance to ask for feedback
- Discounting Praise: Assuming any praise given to you is faked or exaggerated
It’s something many people deal with in the workplace, and it can often lead to larger anxieties or a fear of taking on new projects and progressing further in your career.
Imposter syndrome was first defined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes as a “feeling of phoniness in people who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative, despite evidence of high achievement.”
More recently, in 2011, a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that almost 70% of people experience this phenomenon at least once in their lives. In fact, it happens so often that Clance herself said if she could go back, she would call it the “imposter experience” because she believes it’s not a complex or syndrome but something almost everyone experiences.
Psychologists theorize that the problem stems with societal or family pressures of living up to a high expectation. Often, people experience self-worth in conjunction with their success and achievements, and when they’re not exceeding their expectations influenced by outside factors, it can lead to self-doubt.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
There aren’t necessarily any ways to avoid imposter syndrome, but there are ways to shift your mindset and offset the effects.
1. Ask People What They Think You’re Good At
While this can be confronting or an uncomfortable thing to do, asking people what they think you’re good at can be a great way to ground yourself. It can show you how people view you and view your positive contributions.
Asking a range of people, from friends and family to colleagues and former colleagues, will give you a range of perceptions that will aid in giving you the energy you need to dive back into work with confidence.
2. Take Note of Your Accomplishments
Commit to writing things down that you’re proud of. In times of high stress, it can be difficult to take a step back and think about what you’ve already achieved to make it to this place of success. You can only see what is in front of you to overcome.
Physically writing down your achievements will show you how far you’ve come and that you’ve already tackled difficult projects and made it out the other side.
3. Talk to Others Who Feel the Same
Starting with your inner circle, share your feelings and ask if others have felt the same. Once you get more comfortable asking the question and talking about your own experience, asking others for their experiences will normalize these feelings and allow support networks to flourish.
4. Seek out Feedback
This can be one of the scariest things for people experiencing imposter syndrome to face. Often, the way you view yourself internally is not aligned with how you’re viewed externally. The only way to overcome these feelings is to simply ask for feedback. The worst thing that can happen is that you’re told about an area for improvement, but you’ll also be told about your strengths.
This process will allow you full clarity of how you’re doing professionally. Don’t allow your feelings of imposter syndrome stop you from seeking improvement and growth. Stop the cycle of wondering about your performance in its tracks, and face it head on.
Ultimately, there is no one way to stop feelings of imposter syndrome, but there are ways to train your brain and focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Support yourself as much as you support others around you, and trust in the skills you’ve worked hard to acquire.
About the Author
Karina Robson is the Digital Copywriter at Order-In. With a passion for connecting people at work, Order-In serves up connections through good food.