“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt” – Bertrand Russell.
Try asking yourself have you ever thought that someone is going to find you out, that is find out that you are ‘faking it’ and not really any good in what you are doing, do you look at others and feel inferior. Are you ever filled with self doubt even when you are doing something really well, and when others give you compliments do you say something like ‘it’s nothing really’ and find it difficult to take the complement?
If any of these examples sounds familiar you might have what is known to psychologists as Imposter Syndrome.
“Imposter syndrome is the way that highly successful people perceive their self doubt, they are also unable to appreciate or internalise their accomplishments and they have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
So the purpose of this article is to tell you a little bit more about this strange condition called Imposter Syndrome, knowing a little more about the syndrome, that you’re not alone and that others feel just like you will make you feel better, and if you can spend just a few minutes more to read to the end of the article I will also give you the 5 best ways to handle Imposter Syndrome if you think it might be affecting you.
The problem with imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome can lead to problems and it’s not that you or other people who suffer from too actually get ‘found out’ for being a fraud, or that you are not good enough, instead it’s the persistent feelings of self doubt that accompany Imposter Syndrome that causes the problem.
Self doubt causes people to downshift, to stop trying, to avoid challenges, to lower the bar, and if this happens and Imposter Syndrome keeps you in your comfort zone, you may never stretch yourself, achieve as much as you could or reach your full potential.
Feeling a fraud and being a fraud should never be confused.
Imposter Syndrome gets its name because of a feeling that you are just bluffing your way through something, that you are ‘faking it’ or just feeling like an imposter.
But did you know that almost everyone feels like this at some time in their life, for most of us it’s a feeling and we are not actually living a lie instead the feelings are there because of self doubt, confidence issues or that we are simply learning something new rather than actually being a fraud.
After all I’m qualified to do what I do, I’ve past exams, I’ve done the time training yet with Imposter Syndrome there are times that I can still feel like a fraud but feeling a fraud and being a fraud is a totally different thing so don’t confuse the two.
“don’t confuse their outsides with your insides”
If you have you ever looked at your colleagues at work perhaps the ones that are really doing well, do they ever make you feel inferior or not good enough? Because a common trait of Imposter syndrome is that other people’s success can make you feel bad.
By comparing other people’s outside achievements with how you are feeling on the inside isn’t very productive, all it does is to make you feel inadequate and builds self-doubt until you start asking yourself ‘can I really do this’, ‘am I just bluffing it’, or ‘am I just a fraud’?
You can’t really know how someone else feels, neither can you compare their apparent competency with your internal feelings so don’t do it, and in my experience peal back a few layers of bravado and other people whoever they are may well be feeling exactly like you, are they are just better at not showing it.
“don’t confuse competence with perfection”
People with Imposter Syndrome achieve, actually they tend to be high achievers, the trouble is that high achievers set really high standards for themselves, when doing this they mix up competence with perfection and they inadvertently fall short and feel bad. Being competent and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, being able to reflect on your performance and improve what you are doing is the issue here, nobody’s perfect and that includes you, so don’t confuse competence with perfection.
Instead see perfection as a process, and make things perfect by continuously improving what you do and don’t confuse competence with perfection.
“Uncertainty is a natural part of growth”
Most high achievers push themselves, they are always growing, learning, and taking on new challenges, these are some of the traits needed for success yet doing new things takes effort, it take time and it’s natural to feel uncertain and out of your depth when you are learning to do something new.
When you aim to be better and when you raise the bar you are in effect creating a space for yourself to grow, but within this space always lies uncertainty, and with it also lies the self doubt at the heart of Imposter Syndrome, consider this;
Uncertainty and self doubt are a natural part of personal growth, and if you aren’t feeling a little bit uncertain you aren’t pushing hard enough.
Doing something new takes time and effort at first you will be feeling that you are ‘faking it’ when really you are just learning and experiencing what is known as being ‘consciously competent’. When you do something new you consciously experience every step in whatever the process is you are learning, in effect you are just learning the moves, learning what to say, and it all feels very clunky, but this this has to happen before it starts to imprint and feel natural. \
So don’t worry ‘faking it’ is an essential part of learning, neurologically your brain is firing impulses in what are known as mirror neurones when you learning how to do something new, so consider ‘faking it’ as an essential part of learning.
“No it’s Nothing Really”.
Imposter syndrome is not just about self-doubt and feeling a fraud, another facet of Imposter Syndrome is the inability for person to internalise their success.
What this means is that sufferers of Imposter Syndrome don’t take compliments very well at all, they have an inability to believe that their achievements are actually real and valid, their success fails to make them feel any different, and by not being able to internalise their achievements they minimise any good feelings and their self doubt tends to linger for longer.
“Think I just got Lucky”.
Chances are unless we are talking about a lottery win, what really happened is that you did something, you took your chances, you knocked and had the courage to open the door of opportunity, and however lucky you may feel in life it’s still pretty much all down to you.
Even if we go back to the lottery win, even that is not chance alone, there is cause and effect happening here as well, perhaps even a lottery win wouldn’t happened if you hadn’t bought the ticket or had even bothered to check the numbers. There’s cause and effect in everything we do, so accept this as fact and take the compliments you are given.
“I don’t deserve it”
Don’t discount your success, remember you had a major role in it, it was you that turned up, you that did the research, you that made the call, you that did the revision, and it was you that sat the exam or closed the deal.
Too much modesty can cripple you, most of the time ‘You DO deserve what you get’, and it is so important in life to celebrate your success when you have done well, by doing this you are also allowing yourself to feel happier inside.
So the bottom line is that it is far better for your mental health to allow yourself to feel good and take any compliment that you can get in life because internalising your achievements helps you value yourself and gives you a huge psychological boost.
For those of you that have forgotten how to take a compliment just try smiling and saying “thank you, that means a lot to me” and see what effect that has on how you feel and your own self esteem, so stop putting yourself down and start to feel real and valid about your achievements.
5 Ways to Combat Imposter Syndrome.
If you are feeling fake, that’s ok it usually means you are learning the ropes, just keep faking it until things feel more natural and you start looking more confident.
If you are feeling as if you might get ‘found out’, perhaps you are just ‘finding out’ what you need to do so keep doing it.
Don’t confuse your competence with perfection, just be authentic, remember nobody’s perfect, and that includes you.
Don’t compare other people’s display of confidence with how your feel inside, they’re probably just better at you than hiding it.
Learn how to take compliments, and remember to feel good about your achievements.
Highly successful people still have self doubt, fear and uncertainty are a normal part of growth and doing anything new is clunky and feels difficult at first until they feel natural and become habit. So instead of fearing you are going to be exposed, instead expose yourself to new things and see imposter syndrome as a positive feedback that you are still growing as an individual.
Because quite frankly I’ve been bluffing for years and it works for me.
One day, in an insecurity-friendly utopia, perhaps we’ll look with scepticism on those remaining few who claim never to have felt as if they’re faking it, because they’re probably faking that. – Oliver Burkeman.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.