Upskill for the career you love! Call us on 1300 009 924
SkillsTalk

Impostor syndrome: do you have it?

By Alison Rodericks | 28 June 2019


Picture this: You’ve been promoted at work with a position that offers new responsibilities, a pay rise and opportunities for career progression. You should be shouting from the rooftops,but instead you’re afraid. 

Afraid of the success that’s coming  your way. Afraid to take advantage of the position and further your career. Afraid that others will see through your charade and say you don’t deserve the accolades. 

Instead of realising that you deserve this promotion, you let the seed of self-doubt sabotage your career. You, my friend,  may be experiencing impostor syndrome. 

What is impostor syndrome?

According to Psychology Today, impostor syndrome is “a psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud”. 

The term was first coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes when they studied female college students and faculty members. They found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, some people were convinced that they didn’t deserve their success. 

Sometimes called “impostor phenomenon” or “fraud syndrome”, impostor syndrome describes the psychological state of feeling that you don't deserve your success, especially at work or study. 

While you may logically know what you're capable of doing and holding your job, you often attribute your success to good luck or being in the right place at the right time. 

When people laud your accomplishments, you dismiss it and downplay it, thinking that there were others who were better qualified and deserved the position more than you. To put it simply, you feel like a fraud. 

And you’re not alone. According to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, up to 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives, and it is not restricted to high achievers. 

Even Albert Einstein suffered from impostor syndrome, describing himself as an “involuntary swindler” whose work didn’t deserve as much attention as it received! 

Why do we feel that our ideas and skills are not worthy of other’s attention? Why do we doubt ourselves and let fear cripple us? 

Since it’s tough to ascertain how hard our peers work, how difficult they find their jobs or how much they doubt their capabilities, it’s hard to dismiss this lingering, unwarranted sense of insecurity.

Women impostors vs. Men impostors  

While everyone can have the experience of feeling like an impostor or fraud, it can affect men and women differently, with women experiencing impostor syndrome more than men

People are more likely to have feelings of being an impostor if they're in an area of expertise that is outside their comfort zone, e.g. females who take up male-dominated fields like mathematics, engineering, etc. 

Men are taught to 'fake it till you make it', whereas women are often raised to take care of others and worry about how their actions affect other people. 

Signs you’re experiencing impostor syndrome

  1. You dread success.
  2. Fear holds you back.
  3. You can’t accept praise gracefully.
  4. You work too much.
  5. Only the best will do.
  6. Fear of failure.
  7. You feel inadequate.
If you experience some or most of these signs, this may indicate that you have impostor syndrome.

1. You dread success.

You are anxious about success and feel guilty and unworthy of it, downplaying it when it comes your way. 

2. Fear holds you back. 

You are too afraid to share new ideas or even apply for a promotion or new position because you believe you don’t deserve the accolades. 

3. You can’t accept praise gracefully. 

When somebody compliments you on a job well done, you genuinely do not believe you deserve the credit. This is not to be confused with false modesty.

4. You work too much. 

man staring at laptop looking stressed

You can’t help but overdo your job, investing way too much time and effort into your work. While working hard is commendable, you go way beyond what is required of you. 

5. Only the best will do. 

You take perfectionism to the extreme. You are an overachiever who has a compulsion to excel at everything you undertake, setting impossibly high standards for yourself. 

6. Fear of failure. 

Failure is not an option and you will do anything to avoid it, leading to a vicious cycle of setting even higher goals and targets. You focus more on your failures and what you haven’t done instead of your successes. 

7. You feel inadequate.

You suffer from an ingrained feeling of being less than adequate. You are afraid to speak up and voice an opinion, thinking everyone will see through you.

Ways to overcome impostor syndrome

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.
  2. Talk it over.
  3. Be positive.
  4. Change the way you think.
Although the symptoms of impostor syndrome may seem difficult to shake off,  it isn’t impossible to overcome them. Take note of these ways that could help you avoid setting high standards for yourself and experience the symptoms of the syndrome less. 

1. Acknowledge your feelings. 

There is a correlation between impostor syndrome and anxiety disorders, so it is important to recognise, accept and process your “impostor” thoughts.  Even realising there’s a term for what you’re experiencing helps put a name to your feelings and bring relief. 

2. Talk it over. 

friends and family support network

When you share your experiences and feelings with family, friends, a mentor or a counsellor, you are in a supportive environment. You can learn how to cope with your negative thoughts and get another person’s point of view. 

Realising that a senior or peer has gone through the same feelings helps alleviate your fears. The more you talk about your supposed “ineptness”, the better you’ll feel. 

3. Be positive. 

You need to realise the value of your work and all the effort that you put into your job. This will allay your fears of being a failure or fraud. Realise that everybody has flaws and stop comparing yourself to others. 

4. Change the way you think. 

If you want to stop feeling like an impostor, you’ve got to stop thinking like one. Every time you get bogged down by negative thoughts, you need to stop them in their tracks. 

Focus on your own personal plus points and realise that you do not have to be brilliant in every single aspect of your life. Reframe your thoughts and, over time, you will actually start to believe in your new way of thinking.  

Want to boost your self-confidence when it comes to your career? 

If you need a confidence boost when it comes to your professional goals, Upskilled offers a range of online courses to give your career the edge it needs. 

There are many benefits when it comes to study, and while it takes time and a little sacrifice, you could reap the rewards later on when securing a job you love or at most, feel a great sense of accomplishment. 

So, what are you waiting for? Upskill for the career you love by contacting one of Upskilled’s friendly education consultants on 1300 009 924 and start believing in yourself by studying the course that aligns with your professional and personal goals.
 
View all Self improvement articles

Related courses

Enquire now

Start your next course with Upskilled. Enter your details in the form below.