Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? Have you doubted your abilities or felt that you don’t deserve your success, despite your accomplishments and qualifications? If so, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is where people doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as frauds or phonies. This happens despite a person’s qualifications, experience, and competence. It is a common experience among high achievers, including professionals, students, and artists, who attribute their success to luck, timing, or external factors rather than their own abilities. In fact, it is a common and normal response to the challenges and pressures of high-achieving environments and can impact 70% of people at least once in their lifetime.
Some signs of imposter syndrome include:
- Agonising over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work
- Attributing success to outside factors
- Downplaying your own expertise, even in areas where you are genuinely more skilled than others
- Avoiding challenges or opportunities for fear of failure or exposure
- Engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours or procrastination
- Setting excessively high standards for yourself and feeling inadequate when they are not met
While it is not counted as a ‘diagnosable mental illness’, imposter syndrome can have a negative impact on a person including anxiety, low self-esteem, impaired performance, stress, burnout, limited career or personal growth, and even depression.
Luckily, there are some proactive strategies to help overcome this feeling, and as we’re all about sharing learnings, I’ve listed them below:
- Recognise and acknowledge your imposter feelings. Admitting to yourself and others that you experience imposter syndrome can be liberating and validating. It can also help you to realise that you are not alone in your experience.
- Reframe your thoughts. Challenge your negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations and realistic appraisals of your abilities and accomplishments. Practice self-compassion and celebrate your successes.
- Seek support and feedback from others. Share your concerns with trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues who can offer encouragement, perspective, and constructive criticism.
- Embrace challenges and take risks. Step out of your comfort zone and tackle new projects, skills, or opportunities. Accept that failure and mistakes are natural and necessary parts of growth and learning.
- Cultivate a growth mindset. Adopt a mindset that emphasises effort, learning, and progress, rather than fixed traits or outcomes. Focus on your development and improvement, rather than comparisons to others.
Imposter syndrome is something we all can come up against, but the key is to remember you’re not alone, and you have the power to reframe your thinking – and not let it negatively impact your way of life.