A few years ago I got promoted at work. Despite being more than qualified, I spent the first year waiting to be pulled into a meeting room and told, ‘we’ve made a terrible mistake’. I lived in a state of panic and regardless of any positive feedback, I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my new role.
My experience is not uncommon. I’ve heard of chief executives googling how to run a company and high profile celebrities talking about feeling like a fraud. It’s so well known, it has its own terminology: imposter syndrome. This is where you believe you’re not good enough despite evidence to the contrary.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where feelings of self-doubt and low confidence levels are so intense they make you feel like a fraud. Researchers say it’s more common in high achieving women. However, statistics show 70% of millenials have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.
Whilst I think it’s a far nicer character trait to be under confident and overachieving, as opposed to overconfident and underachieving, the reality is that imposter syndrome can stop us from realising our true ambitions without us really realising it.
So what can you do to overcome it?
- Awareness of an issue is generally the first step to overcoming it. Take notice of your feelings, thought processes and whether you feel a fraud for no real reason.
- Try tracking your achievements so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Some people keep a compliments folder or write lists.
- Recognise lots of other people feel this way and you are not alone. It’s a sign that you care.
- Open up to friends about how you’re feeling. Their perception is likely to be different to yours and it might be useful to get an impartial view.
- Focus on adding value in the short term and remember you won’t feel this way forever.