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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Written by: Chantelle Wooldridge
Published on: 15 Jul 2022

What is imposter syndrome?

  • Have you ever felt like you’re not as competent as others think you are?
  • Do you feel like you don’t belong where you are and that the reason why you are where you are, is purely down to luck?
  • Do you constantly doubt that you are not meeting expectations? 
  • Do you berate your performance?
  • Have you felt like you don’t belong in this job?

Any of that sound familiar? 
These are all classic symptoms of someone who has imposter syndrome. The term Imposter Syndrome is normally described as a feeling of “phoniness or fake” where you believe that you aren’t as capable or as clever as others perceive you to be. On a day-to-day basis you may feel as though you’re going to be found out as being a fraud and that you shouldn’t be where you are, or you focus on the one mistake you made instead of all things you got right that day.

I’m sure we can all relate to these feelings at one point or another in our lives and not necessarily recognise or categorise it as “Imposter Syndrome”. To someone who is feeling like this on a day-to-day basis, it will feel very real and can be incredibly debilitating. It doesn’t discriminate either, it can affect anyone no matter their work background, skill level, age, gender, degree of expertise or social status. 

According to the latest research around 70% of adults will experience at least one episode of this phenomenon in their lives. So, in a way, we can all take some comfort in knowing that experiencing these feelings isn’t uncommon and the more we recognise the signs of it, the more we can apply our own strategies to overcoming it. 

Before we consider how to overcome it, its important to understand some of the most common triggers of Imposter Syndrome:

Family Upbringing
Some of the latest research suggests that people who have been surrounded by conflict in the family home, with low levels of support or with parents who flipped back and forth between praise and being critical may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome. 

New Job
Imposter Syndrome will likely be most prevalent when people experience change or when experiencing something new. The pressure to achieve and succeed in a new job, combined with the lack of experience, whilst forming new relationships can trigger feelings of inadequacy and “I don’t belong here”.

Some of us are at higher risk of experiencing imposter syndrome if we have certain personality traits, such as:

  • Self-Belief 
  • Perfectionism 
  • Neuroticism 

Social Anxiety
Imposter syndrome often causes normally non-anxious people to experience a sense of anxiety when they are in situations where they feel inadequate.

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Understand what it feels like and take note. If you are thinking, “im not good enough”, “I got this job by luck”. Recognise this is your “imposter” within you. Write these thoughts down, recognise what it is and change the narrative you are telling yourself.  

Positive Mindset
When you have written down your “imposter” thoughts, recognise if these feelings are based on anything factual or real. Feelings of inadequacy and fear are in your mind. Reframe your thoughts, remove the pressure from yourself and instead of thinking something like “I don’t know what I'm doing and why I got this job” reframe it to “I don’t know everything...yet. I’m still learning”? No one is perfect and everyone has to start somewhere.

Ask for help when you need it
Perfectionism and impostor syndrome go hand-in-hand. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Don’t wait to bring an idea to the table because its not yet “perfect” in your mind.  

Recognise successImposter Syndrome [square]
Anyone reading this, will be great at so many things. When do you recognise that though in yourself? Do you ever write down your strengths and all things you are good at? No? Starting doing it! Write down where you would like to develop too and focus on developing those areas. There is nothing wrong with personal growth. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, is where true growth happens. 

You are not alone in this
Talk to someone about how you are feeling and I guarantee that person will be able to relate to you with a similar experience at some point in their life. You don’t need to tackle this alone. Don’t forget 70% of adults will experience Imposter Syndrome in their lives. 
Finally, if you are feeling like an imposter, its likely to be because you have had some degree of success in your life. Instead of feeling like that must be down to luck or other people have got it wrong about you, turn that feeling into gratitude. Take a step back and look at what you have achieved and be grateful to be in the position you are. 

You are where you are, because you worked for it and deserve to be there.