Imposter Syndrome and How It Can Sabotage Your Success

I have recently come across articles or books mentioning the term, “imposter syndrome” so decided to research it further to learn more detailed information.

According to Psychology Today, People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they are not as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them. Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold high office or have numerous academic degrees.”

Further, people with imposter syndrome believe they are a fraud, and it is only a matter of time before they are exposed for the failure they think they are.

So, what exactly is imposter syndrome? Also according to Psychology Today, Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”

Let’s look at a few cases of imposter syndrome, which may tread on familiar territory as you read through them. You were selected to give a big presentation at work and became thrilled about this incredible opportunity. You then suddenly shrink in your shoes thinking you could NEVER stand in front of your peers, supervisors, or an executive team to give a coherent and polished presentation. You instantly think, “Are you kidding me? My manager must have no one else to choose from so she selected me out of desperation. There’s no way I can do this.” While you no doubt have the ability, subject matter knowledge and auditory skills to deliver a great presentation, imposter syndrome says, “Look at you. No one would believe YOU could give a presentation of any interest. You don’t know a quarter of what others think you know.” You then stop right in your tracks in utter fear that you really are not capable of such a monumental task.

Or maybe you are quite comfortable speaking in front of a group at work, since after all, you can easily slip on your “work hat” and hide behind your professional cloak. However, what about interacting during a social event? There your work hat comes off and you get to show up as your authentic self. Does imposter syndrome kick in and convince you that people will finally see the true you which would be an utter disaster. You believe you are not good enough to be in the presence of others at this event. You also believe you cannot hold an intelligent conversation and therefore, others will think you to be boring and uninteresting. You simply feel awkward at best just being well, you. These untruthful thoughts make you conclude you will simply skip out on the event altogether and watch a movie in the safety and protection of your own home instead.

Interestingly, others can ignite feelings of imposter syndrome for you. For our last example, you are preparing to write an article on a subject you feel would especially help your intended audience. You are so excited as you begin to conduct extensive research and organize your thoughts. In your excitement, you share your idea with someone close to you only for them to reply, “Why are YOU writing about that subject? You know nothing about it.” Imposter syndrome hits you straight between the eyes before you realize what’s happening and all the excitement you previously held flies right out the window. You then rationalize, “She’s right. I have no business writing about this subject. What was I thinking?” And just like that, your great idea that could have helped countless others, lies in the recycle bin on your computer.

Psychology Today continues, “Imposter syndrome can stifle the potential for growth and meaning, by preventing people from pursuing new opportunities for growth at work, in relationships, or around their hobbies. Confronting imposter syndrome can help people continue to grow and thrive.”

How can you overcome imposter syndrome if it occurs? Start by reflecting on the things you HAVE accomplished.

· Maybe you are the first person in your family to go and graduate from college.

· And hey, weren’t you the one who landed that dream job where your manager had confidence in your abilities to deliver a well-received presentation?

· Or perhaps you are a mom successfully juggling family, career, and social activities with the precision of a skilled warrior.

· Reflect on the many, many areas up to this point where you HAVE succeeded.

· Contact a mentor or trusted friend who can guide you to see the amazing characteristics you possess and help you remember the many, many feats you have achieved.

· Write them down and look at these accomplishments often as reminders of just how far you have come and how much you have effectively undertaken.

An article published by Time Magazine stated in part, One of the first steps to overcoming impostor feelings is to acknowledge the thoughts and put them in perspective. “Simply observing that thought as opposed to engaging it” can be helpful, says Ervin. “We can help teach people to let go and more critically question those thoughts. I encourage clients to ask, ‘Does that thought help or hinder me?’”

Most people experience moments of doubt, and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control your actions. “The goal is not to never feel like an impostor. The goal for me is to give [people] the tools and the insight and information to talk themselves down faster,” she says. “They can still have an impostor moment, but not an impostor life.”

Below you will find helpful links to learn additional information regarding imposter syndrome. Please also leave a comment regarding your thoughts, how imposter syndrome can impact your decision-making.


See also: The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention by Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes

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