Have you ever felt like you don’t belong somewhere? Don’t deserve something? That your achievements are due to a ‘fluke’ or good timing rather than hard work or genuine skills? This is Imposter Syndrome. And don’t worry – you’re not alone in these thoughts. In fact, it’s estimated that a whopping 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a term that was coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 after recognising these psychological patterns in high-achieving women. They studied 150 women, and their study showed that women who suffered with Imposter Syndrome lacked acknowledgement of their accomplishments despite clear evidence of their well earned success.
Those with this syndrome tend to feel insecure and fraudulent for gaining recognition for their achievements. They may think they are undeserving, inadequate and can be overwhelmed by self doubt. There are also common behaviours that are present in those who experience it. They may belittle any positive feedback they get, over prepare, not try because they believe they will fail, and they may also distrust others.
So, what causes it? Well, it seems as though Imposter Syndrome is pretty equally experienced in both men and women. It also affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It is thought that the main causes are:
- High expectations from family members which began in childhood
- Cultural expectations
- Individual personality traits such as perfectionism
- Comparing yourself to others regularly
How can you combat it? Here are some helpful tips:
- Make a list of your qualifications, experience, and achievements and look at it often
- Set realistic goals for yourself
- Reward yourself for your successes and efforts
- Establish (and stick to!) limits and boundaries to make sure you’re not overworking
- Try to reframe your mindset around failure
- Reach out to a supportive loved one
It’s also useful to remember that Imposter Syndrome is very common, and the chances are your favourite actor, singer, author has experienced it at some point!