Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Written by Luisa Roberts
Recently, I was chatting with a friend – a very successful accomplished friend- and she mentioned feeling like she did not deserve the job she had. She went on to say that she felt under-qualified and unsure of how she had gotten to where she was professionally. I was surprised to hear this. My friend has always worked hard, and she is more than qualified for the position that she holds. But as I was assuring her that she had no reason to feel like this I realized I have also felt like this and so have many of my friends over the years.
What she was feeling and what I sometimes feel is called Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is caused by a conflict between your self-perception and the way others perceive you in a professional setting. Oftentimes, you may believe that you are undeserving of any achievements or the high esteem in which you are held. You may believe that you aren’t as competent or intelligent as people might think and become anxious that one day people will discover the truth. People with Imposter Syndrome often attribute accomplishments to external causes like luck, good timing, or a one-off achievement and are uncomfortable when praised for these accomplishments.
Recently, I was given more responsibility in my role, and I found myself telling people that I was just lucky and that I was just in the right place at the right time. In my career coaching sessions, I found myself saying I felt unsure if my company had made the right decision. My coach quickly stopped me in my tracks and reminded me that if my bosses did not believe in me or want me in this role then I would not be in it. Acknowledging expertise and accomplishments is the key to overcoming Imposter Syndrome. Maybe it is a trusted mentor, colleague or friend who reminds you or maybe you remind yourself but in order to overcome these feelings of self-doubt you need to hear and acknowledge that you have earned your position. A good exercise to do whenever you are overcome with the feeling that you do not deserve your position or the praise you are receiving is to challenge your doubts and take stock of your achievements to date. Find concrete examples of when you did something well in your position, when you had a big win, when you put in the extra time and extra work. This helps to create perspective and can help you to move through any anxiety and guilt you may be feeling.
Around 25% of high achievers experience Imposter Syndrome and up to 75% of people experience it at least once in their life. Imposter Syndrome can stifle your potential for growth and can cause anxiety and burn out in the long run. I find chatting with my friends and peers about this feeling helps to dissipate some of the anxiety that it causes as it reminds me that I am not alone and that we are all figuring out our place in our professional lives.
Once you overcome your Imposter Syndrome you can really thrive professionally. I found that once I accepted that I was capable and deserving of my new responsibility that is when I began to see a change in my productivity, my work product, and my confidence. I am becoming a better version of my professional self everyday!