You’ve just achieved one of your major goals and you should be happy, but the voice in your head says, are you really qualified for that? Who gave you the permission?
This fear can be utterly paralysing… but maybe it doesn’t have to be that way?
I was walking to my seat at graduation, a day of feeling proud of your achievements and celebrating your success. I sat in my seat and thought what if they don’t call my name? What if they finally realise that I’m not clever enough for my degree? I believed that whenever I got my results they must have been wrong. I genuinely believed it was just me that felt this way and I never knew there was a term for it until recently.
It can hit at any time but it’s mainly due to successes such as new careers. I had my first interview since graduating and was convincing myself in my head that I’d lied on my CV and that my qualifications aren’t correct or they’re not legit when actually, they definitely are.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is a type of psychological pattern that makes you feel as though your accomplishments aren’t as they seem. It creates a sense of self doubt through a persistent internalised fear that you’re a fraud. Such as, putting your successes down to luck. Despite external validation from others, those with imposter syndrome lack internal acknowledgements of their own accomplishments and achievements. This can be caused by the drive to succeed, fear of failure and feeling guilt for your success.
Imposter syndrome was first described by Dr Pauline Clance in 1985 as she described the phenomenon as experiencing intense feelings of guilt that their achievements are undeserved and that they will be eventually exposed as a fraud.
Personally, I believe that doubt is healthy in small amounts as it helps us find room for improvement and self development. Imposter syndrome comes from a natural desire to succeed which starts of as healthy, but sometimes can be taken over the line to self destructive. This can be caused by your (false) belief in your own intellectual inadequacy which in turn leads you to anticipate your own failures which can spiral into a load of confidence problems.
The truth is that anyone from all walks of life can suffer from imposter syndrome. Billionaire Mike Cannon Brookes told ABC News in an interview that most days he still feels as though he doesn’t know what he’s doing, despite being CEO of Altassian.
I started researching the topic of imposter syndrome because I didn’t even know there was a term for it. It’s something I’ve experienced often that I’ve always put down to my anxiety disorder but it turns out it has a complete separate classification. I started my research and thought maybe there’s a lot of people that haven’t heard of it? Which inspired this post.
Amy Cuddy and the notion of presence.
I recently read a book by social psychologist, Amy Cuddy called ‘Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to Your Boldest Challenges‘.
“Fake it until you become it” The essence of this idea is that sometimes we have to trick ourselves into seeing what we are and what we’re capable of. We’re not tricking others, because they have no reason to believe we’re not capable. We’re standing in our own way, which is why we have to fake ourselves from time to time” – Presence, Amy Cuddy.
Amy says that both men and women can suffer from imposter syndrome, even though it is typically described as a problem felt by females only. This often happens by stereotype backlash as she states that, “men who deviate from the strong assertive stereotype” punish themselves for failing to conform to societies expectations. Women can also suffer from stereotype backlash if they appear to masculine in the workplace.
Amy Cuddy’s research into body language and body chemistry revealed that we can change perceptions of others by simply changing the position of our bodies. Cuddy calls this ‘Power Posing’ and in 2012 she spoke at a TEDx talk – ‘Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.’ Watch it: here
FYI, if you’re into self improvement books I definitely recommend this one!
You can purchase it: here.
What can we do about it?
I spoke to certified professional ghost writer, published novelist and TEDx speaker, Joshua Lisec about his advice on overcoming imposter syndrome and he told me that “The struggle you’ve had with trying to land clients, getting that promotion, or saying yes to yourself…it’s not because you aren’t any good at what you do or because you’re “bad” or “not enough …
“it’s not because you’re thinking too highly of yourself. Imposter Syndrome is what you’re dealing with. Remember the oh-so-nerdy theory of cognitive psychology called the Dunning-Krueger Effect tells you that, if you’re doubting your own abilities, you’re most likely pretty damn good at what you do.”
I asked Joshua about his personal advice on overcoming said Imposter Syndrome and he told me that, “For me, overcoming imposter syndrome involved third-party feedback that yes, I did in fact know what I was talking about and that my story is worth seeing and hearing…that what I have accomplished is indeed as impressive as I personally believe it is.
“Giving a TEDx Talk did all of that for me at once. If you are battling imposter syndrome, the best thing you can do is share your story on stage or in print and see what people say. Oh, sure, there are haters, but the effect of overwhelming positive feedback means they don’t matter. You stop noticing the negativity after a while.”
Watch Joshua’s TED talk – here
Quick Tips on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
– Don’t focus on negatives – one failure does not mean that we lack in our skils. Failure is a necessity to our growth.
– Tell yourself everyday: “I deserve my success” If your best friend said she didn’t deserve her success, you’d be furious! Of course she does? She’s the most talented and deserving girl ever!! …. so why can’t you see that in yourself? Be proud of who you are and what you have achieved.
– TALK: Amy Cuddy states in her book that most of us are walking round feeling like imposters but that we feel too ashamed to admit it. The more that we talk about it, the less we can carry the burden of feeling this way.
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