“I don’t belong here.”
“I don’t deserve this.”
“I’m a fraud and soon everyone will find out, too.”
If you've ever had similar thoughts running back and forth in your head when you’re at work, know that you are not alone. Feeling like a fraud, a phony, or an imposter whenever you achieve something can be something much more than just “self-doubt.” A study done in 2019 revealed that anywhere from 9-82% of working individuals express having thoughts and doubts along the same lines.
This is imposter syndrome and it affects many people, from teens to working adults. Learning about what imposter syndrome is, how it affects people, and how to combat it can help determine whether you experience it, too, and how you can prevent it from taking control over your perception of your accomplishments and success.
Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re a fraud and that you aren’t as competent as other people think you are. It’s not a mental disorder that can be diagnosed, despite being called a "syndrome." Instead, the phrase is used to refer specifically to having thoughts of invalidation and self-doubt over one’s achievements and intelligence.
Imposter syndrome, to put it simply, is the feeling of being a fraud in any aspect of your life, despite having many successes and putting in mountains worth of hard work. Anyone can experience imposter syndrome, regardless of their social standing, career or educational background and competence, or talents. Common symptoms of imposter syndrome include:
● Having difficulty validating your skills and competence
● Holding external factors responsible for your success
● Criticizing yourself and your competence
● Having a constant fear of being unable to live up to expectations
● Setting impossible goals for yourself and berating yourself when you fail to achieve them
● Constantly overachieving and overworking
● Doubting your success and feeling undeserving of your accomplishments
Self-doubt and imposter syndrome are different things, though self-doubt can be a symptom of imposter syndrome. Here are some examples of imposter syndrome in work life:
● You’re giving it your all to everything in life, to the point of burnout, exhaustion and overwhelmedness. For instance, you might arrive early or stay late each day.
● You hold yourself accountable for things that aren't your fault and you constantly berate yourself over small problems. For instance, everyone in the team messed up a presentation and you hold yourself accountable for the overall failure despite working your hardest for your part.
● You may feel like you're deceiving others or fear that your supervisor or colleagues will "find out" about it, which makes you feel like a phony or fraud.
● You believe your colleagues are more competent, and successful, and “have it all together” while you don't.
● Even when everyone says you're doing well, you can't accept compliments because you never believe your effort is adequate or the results can be considered a success.
How To Manage Imposter Syndrome And Prevent It From Controlling Your Career
If you have and are experiencing the mentioned examples, you may have tried to work even harder to avoid feeling this way. But simply working hard at your job might not be able to do much to change your perception of yourself and your accomplishments. Here are some strategies that can help you manage imposter feelings more efficiently:
The first step to battling any internal dilemma is acknowledging that you’re really feeling that way. Identifying and accepting that you have impostor feelings is the first step to resolving them. After you accept that you do experience having these thoughts and feelings, you can share them with a friend or a therapist to help them feel less overpowering and overwhelming.
If you do it all on your own, even when you don't have to, you will hold yourself accountable for everything, even when you shouldn't. Try not to give in to the impulse to handle everything yourself. Instead, reach out to your friends and colleagues to form reliable and trustworthy relationships. Don't feel embarrassed to ask for help. Remember that you aren't alone in feeling this way, so sharing impostor feelings with others can make them feel less alone. Having reliable relationships within your workspace can help you with:
● Offering guidance direction and assistance
● Validating your competence when you fail to do so
● Identifying areas where you actually need improvement
● Encouraging your efforts and growth
Identify Your Doubts And Challenge Them
Whenever you experience imposter feelings, try to analyze them logically and see if these feelings match reality. Next, look for evidence to challenge them. For instance, let’s say that you’re thinking of applying for a bigger position at work but you doubt whether your qualifications are enough for it. Maybe you feel this way because you think that your colleagues only compliment you out of sympathy or they feel bad for you.
Or maybe you still hold yourself down over a mistake you made during work months ago. However, if you were really fooling everyone at work, it would be quite challenging, and if you did poor work, it wouldn't have gone unnoticed for very long. This evidence proves that you're doing a lot of things correctly and you deserve a chance at the promotion.
Everyone in the world is unique in their way and has their own accomplishments. It’s because someone saw your potential and skills, you are where you are today. You don't have to succeed at everything you try; and when you don't, that's okay, too. No one can achieve success at everything they try in life.
By experiencing failures and setbacks, we can learn where we lack and how we can improve. Even when it appears that someone is in complete control, this may not always be the case. So comparing yourself to anyone, whether in misery or success is how you allow the feelings of self-doubt, invalidation, and impostorism to sneak in.
The biggest evidence to refute impostorism is its existence itself. If you feel imposter feelings, it signifies that you have had some level of achievement in your life. Now, take this acceptance and try to mold it into self-validation and affirmation. Since true perfection is unachievable, failing to attain it doesn't make you an imposter. Giving yourself compassion and validation instead of criticism and self-doubt can encourage you to pursue self-growth and a realistic perception of yourself.
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