Do you feel incompetent or worse an impostor?
Do you feel a fraud and you are just waiting for someone to catch you out? For some of us, it has nothing to do with us actually being bad at anything but rather a feeling that we are inadequate. This mindset is often referred to as The Impostor Syndrome. It was first termed so in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R Clance and Suzanne A Imes.
It has been noted that most people who experience this syndrome are successful and they struggle to internalise their success for fear of being called a fraud. They will also state timing and luck for their success rather than their hard work or talent. Some of the other signs include:
- being a perfectionist
- over working
- downplaying praise
- fear of failing
- feeling like you don’t belong
If this sounds likes you, don’t worry, most of us experience it at some point in our lives. It has been said that 70% of the population have experienced it at one point or another. It was once thought that it was primarily women who experienced it but more recently, research has shown that it affects men just as much as women.
As I love to talk about mindset and how the mind works, I find the discussion on this particular topic incredibly interesting. Isn’t it fascinating that how we perceive ourselves can cause us to have such strong feelings and influence our actions? It really is a shining example of how our thoughts create our reality.
Most people experience this phenomenon only in a work environment but there are plenty of examples of how it can affect us in other areas of our lives too. I know, for example, I have felt it when I am in a new friendship group and I feel a complete fraud. Thoughts pop into my head of ‘were they actually inviting me or did they get me confused with someone else?’ I am sure that you have your own examples of where, in your life, you have felt like an impostor or a fraud. I would love to hear your own stories, leave me a comment below.
We know what it is so what can we do?
There are a few things which will help. Find the ones which resonate with you and give them a go.
- Acknowledge that this is how you are feeling. For many of us, acknowledging our feelings allows us to feel free from them. They no longer hold any power over us. Writing a journal or talking to someone are both great ways of reflecting on your day and identifying successes or issues you wouldn’t have normally picked up on.
- Don’t expect perfection and don’t worry what others think. I have said before how we are our own worst enemies at times. We expect so much from ourselves and we beat ourselves up when we think we have made a mistake. Most of us are perfectionists because we do not feel confident enough to develop our abilities for fearing the disapproval of others. How many times have you said ‘oh what must they think of me?’ We worry so much about what others think and so we are constantly trying to prove ourselves. Work harder, be funnier etc. The honest truth is most people do not think about you as much as you do. They are worrying about themselves. If you can accept this then you can let it go and concentrate on developing your potential.
- Mistakes are necessary. This is something I am seeing more in primary schools in the U.K. My son, for example, is constantly being told ‘mistakes are magnificent, they help us to learn’. I personally think this is fantastic and I think everyone should work on developing a ‘growth mindset’. It helps us to realise that we are not perfect but that is okay as EVERYTHING can be learned. Use the following to help:
3. Concentrate on service. When you start to think things like ‘I am rubbish at this’, ‘What will they think of me’ etc, try and concentrate on what you can do to help others. Yes, this is putting yourself out there but you may be surprised about how much you actually do know rather than concentrating on what you don’t know.
4. Kind comments. Ask people at work or loved ones what they consider your strengths to be. You may be surprised by the positive comments you get.
5. Realise that nobody has it all figured out. That person who you admire so much because you think they have got it all worked out, HAS NOT got it all figured out. I don’t need to know that person to know this as a truth. Even the most successful people out there are still learning and that is what makes them so successful. So many of us think about experts as people who have it all worked out but I can guarantee that they are still working through things.
6. You are not a finished product. If you were, what would be the point in life? You are constantly changing and evolving. Your opinions, principles, knowledge are not fixed, they all grow as you do.
The end result is to try and accept that these feelings are a by-product of your own thoughts. They are very unlikely to be based on evidence but are instead based on your thinking processes. The best way I find to do this is to write down all of your wins in a journal so that you can see EVERYDAY how incredible you are.
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Stepping out of your comfort zone
Finally, I would like to add that I see this syndrome most in people who are stepping out of their comfort zone and are in the process of starting something new. To you I say, everyone who is at the top of their game, who is super successful at what they do, started where you are. Did they know everything there was to know? No! Did they consider themselves to be frauds? You bet! However, they persevered and learnt new things as they grew both in knowledge and as a person. If they can do it, you can too. You will achieve what you believe you will achieve. Conquer your own mind and you can have anything in life. I wish you all the best,