First off, what is that “impostor syndrome”? How do you know if you’ve got it?
The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who described it as an internal experience of intellectual self-doubt. According to them, individuals who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that in reality they’re not good enough and have tricked anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements do not appear to affect the impostor belief.
Imposter syndrome is when everything’s running smoothly in your life, yet you just can’t fend off the pesky intrusive thought that that missed call could be from your boss to tell you that your recent promotion must have been a mistake.
Perhaps the philosopher Bertrand Russell nailed it even better when he wrote in his 1933 essay “The Triumph of Stupidity”: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Impostor syndrome can be a debilitating feeling which seriously impacts your quality of life. What’s most miserable about this condition is that you’re feeling miserable without any objective reasons. No, you’re not as bad as you think; you’re pretty cool, actually.
The following tips are worth bearing in mind if you think you might be struggling internally with unjustified feelings of incompetence.
Even if they find out you’re a fraud, so what?
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say others eventually find out you are, in fact, a fraud. Would an insurmountable disaster take place?
Ok, maybe it could seem like that for 5 minutes or so, but then you’d come back to your senses, dust yourself off and realise that there are way worse things happening out there in the world.
This may sound like an arduous task to undertake, but have the courage to be imperfect. Everyone has been a work-in-progress at some point during their lives. In fact, everyone actually still remains a work-in-progress, as success is a very relative thing and there’s always more to strive for. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but NO ONE on Earth is perfect. If you think someone is, you just don’t know that person very well!
Relinquish the need to blend in
According to Fiona Buckland, who gave a masterclass on how to tackle impostor syndrome and embrace your power, as children our emotional need to belong often lead us to downplay our abilities as a survival strategy, believing we are more likeable when we fit in rather than stand out.
As a result, you may be less inclined to own your success for fear of being labelled a braggart. Can you see yourself in this description? If yes and you’re also new to the job market game, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that the impostor phenomenon is more prevalent among graduates and millennials in general.
In fact, it looks like up to 70% of millennials suffer from the plague of impostor syndrome. That, in turn, raises the question if it makes any sense to be nervous about what people might think of you when these very people may be shaking inside that you’ll spot their own weaknesses and imperfections. It’s as if we were a universe inhabited by souls, connected by the unifying trait of neurosis.
You really don’t have to give 150 per cent effort, 100 is just enough
Impostor syndrome sufferers are often perfectionists who tend to overprepare, devoting much more time to a task than is necessary.
Dr. Suzanne Imes argues that out of fear of being discovered as a fraud, people with impostor feelings go through great contortions to do a job as perfectly as possible.
When they succeed, they begin to wrongly believe all that anxiety and gargantuan effort were prerequisites for getting things done. Subsequently, they develop some warped beliefs about how effort and success work. They assume their successes must be due to that uber perfectionism.
"They don't have any idea it's possible not to feel so anxious and fearful all the time," Imes says.
Focus on things greater than yourself
Bringing attention to things larger than yourself - community, projects, ideas, events or values - can help prevent you from getting caught up in petty little ego issues of how you subjectively perceive how others view you.
Katarina Matiasovska writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps career starters find the perfect job, in everything from sales jobs to marketing internships. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.
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