There’s a phenomenon known as “impostor syndrome,” which “…is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” It’s a mental insecurity that despite external evidence of competence, a person experiences a feeling that they do not deserve what they have achieved and believe they’re deceiving others into thinking they are more than what they really are.
Most people have a critical voice inside our heads, but usually it’s a reasonable check that keeps us from becoming overly confident or egotistical. Those negative whispers that come creeping in when you’re in a particularly stressful, unfamiliar, or difficult situation — those are not uncommon from time to time. For some people, that critical voice can be dealt with pretty effectively. All it takes is a few positive affirmations or an acknowledgement of one’s own skills to drown out any looming negativity.
But in recent years, it’s been revealed that for an increasing amount of people, keeping that critical voice silenced isn’t so easy. And in fact, that inner critic can be so pervasive that it can have a serious detrimental effect on both our professional and personal lives.
In the last decade, impostor syndrome has grown in notoriety, since being recognized as an affliction that anyone, regardless of their age, race, gender, or sexuality, can suffer from. And moreover, reports have shown that impostor syndrome can affect professionals from any industry irrespective of skill-level, experience, status, or role. In fact, a report from the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that 70% of people, from all walks of life, have felt like an impostor at some point in their professional life.
From entry-level employee to CEO, from artists to accountants, impostor syndrome can arise in anyone.
What makes impostor syndrome different from just being unsure of yourself?
Of course, it’s natural to be unsure sometimes. Very few of us stroll through life with 100% confidence in our abilities. But impostor syndrome is defined as a persistent clouding of your judgement. It makes you incapable of recognizing your skills, abilities, and experience. This leads to you to become convinced that anything you have achieved in your life has been mere luck or just a mistake. Even when things are going well, you will do mental gymnastics in order to attribute your successes to literally anything other than your own abilities. This will lead to a mass of negative feelings like shame, guilt, anxiety, and can even lead to depression.
Why can impostor syndrome arise and what can we do to overcome it?
There are a range of different reasons why a person might begin to suffer with impostor syndrome. Let’s take a look at a few of them now.
Starting a new job
When assuming a new role, especially when you are being asked to perform tasks for the very first time, impostor syndrome will usually be lurking round the corner. New situations, with all the ambiguities that come with them, can often overwhelm you with uncertainty and make you question your suitability for new responsibilities.
Sound familiar? Here’s a quick tip: Just remember that you earned the right to be in this new position. You’ve had to prove yourself to get where you are. And guess what? You proved it. You impressed the right people and convinced them you are the worthy of your new role. These are just irrefutable facts. Keep that negativity in check by recognizing the facts of your success.
Dealing with change
When facing change, we often find ourselves doubting our abilities. When things get uncertain, that critical voice can get louder and make you feel like you’re out of your depth and unable to deal with an unpredictable situation.
Sound familiar? Here’s a quick tip: Nobody has all the answers. You aren’t an impostor because you’re in unfamiliar territory. Change and uncertainty are vital parts of life as they teach us resilience. Change isn’t a spotlight that can show up your inadequacies or failings. It’s an opportunity to gain fresh insights and new experiences.
Comparisons to your peers
Sometimes we just can’t help but compare ourselves to others. And since social media has become a fundamental part of our daily lives, we often find ourselves making those comparisons with more and more regularity. It can be difficult to see other people’s successes and not feel inadequate. Especially if you aren’t currently where you want to be.
Sound familiar? Here a quick tip: Nobody’s perfect. And more to the point, nobody is as perfect as they appear on their social media accounts. Impostor syndrome flares up when you are too focused on trying to be someone you aren’t. So instead, focus on what makes you unique and nurture those qualities. Your authenticity is the only protection you’ll need from ever feeling like an impostor.
New Course from SAP Litmos Training Content
If you would like to learn more about this concept and how to become better equipped to fight back against it – you’re in luck! This month you can find a brand new Impostor Syndrome course in the SAP Litmos Training Content library.
In the course, we examine impostor syndrome in-depth by identifying the typical signs and symptoms. We dig deep into why impostor syndrome can flare up and how it may manifest in your professional life. You’ll also discover some coping strategies to remember the next time you must battle your inner critic.