Stop me if this sounds familiar: You’re in a highly successful position at a relatively young age, earned through determination and hard work. You’ve climbed the corporate ladder with charm, intelligent networking and being good at what you do. However, before a meeting about the project you’re leading, you struggle to stave off an anxiety attack. You feel like you don’t belong and that you’re a fraud, faking it until making it. It feels like your peers and superiors will discover your secret.
If any of this is relatable, you may have Imposter Syndrome. And this article is for you.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud, Imposter Syndrome disproportionately affects high-achieving people who have difficulty accepting their accomplishments. First identified in 1978 in a study by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, further research has shown that it is more common than we think.
A person with imposter syndrome usually feels like a fraud and harbours a deep fear of being discovered by their peers, despite having a good work ethic and a good body of work. They also struggle with accepting compliments for their work and believe their successes were a fluke.
It can manifest in several ways – if one grows up with a ‘gifted’ sibling, they often internalise the feeling of inadequacy that follows them for the rest of their lives if left untreated. Similarly, people with depression and anxiety are also most likely to experience imposter syndrome in their professional careers.
Other risk factors include belonging to marginalised population groups that are more likely to face discrimination in all facets of life. For instance, a KPMG study has found that 75 per cent of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers.
How to Beat Imposter Syndrome?
Bad news: There is no treatment for imposter syndrome – or at least, not yet. Good news: Therapy helps, and so does talking to your friends and family. If you are reluctant to seek therapy, the following steps can help you.
One of the best ways to overcome feelings of inadequacy and feeling like a fraud is talking to the people who always have your back come hell or high water. Their perspective can help you develop more realistic expectations of yourself and come to terms with your achievements.
- It is okay to be imperfect.
In several cases, imposter syndrome can manifest in people constantly seeking perfection in their daily tasks. The delusion involves thinking if an assignment is not executed to perfection – an impossible task in most cases – they are failures and do not deserve their jobs. Recognising that this is toxic for oneself is critical on the road to recovery from imposter syndrome.
- Do not ignore symptoms.
Ignoring the symptoms and toughing is not always a good idea. Believe me; I’ve tried. Recognise the signs and take appropriate action as soon as you are able.
- Accept that you are worth it.
You have to believe that your grit, work ethic, hard work, and charm have carried you to the position you are in today. Self-acceptance is a critical part of beating imposter syndrome. Remember, you are always worth the effort.
The Road Ahead
Imposter syndrome is not a recognised disorder, but it still affects thousands. You can overcome it by opening up about your fears and negative thoughts with your loved ones. Do not shy away from speaking to a mental health professional about your issues. The world can stand to be a kinder place, so why not start by being kind to yourself?
1) KPMG study finds 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers - KPMG International
2) How to Handle Imposter Syndrome - Medical News Today
3) Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome - Harvard Business Review
Author: Sujayendra Krishna Nellore
When not writing, wrestling with Finny, and building Nova, Sujay often spends his time playing video games and being an unproductive member of society. His idea of fun is reading political theory and history and then arguing with strangers on the internet.