Imposter Syndrome - girl in too big, grown-up shoesAs one of my clients said
“You mean there’s a whole syndrome and I thought I was the only one?”

Have you ever had the experience of walking into a meeting at work, seeing the faces of your peers and colleagues around you and feeling as if you were a child walking into the “grown-up’s space” or that you just weren’t big enough, old enough or wise enough to be joining in this conversation?

If you have, you are not alone!

Surveys have shown that many, maybe over 70% of high achieving women, experience the Imposter Syndrome at some time in their lives or careers. At the very least it can be unsettling and anxiety inducing, at worst it can make life a misery.

Academically speaking, the Imposter Phenomenon was first described by Prof Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes in 1978. They were working with very talented, high-achieving women who felt unable to properly accept or own their achievements.

You may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome particularly if:

  • in the face of evidence of achievement
  • despite showing obvious ability (probably on many occasions)
  • you feel you don’t really deserve this
  • emotionally you don’t feel your success is your own
  • you have a deep sense of “one day I’ll be found out”.

But it doesn’t only affect women. Subsequent research has revealed that men are also familiar with feelings of being the Imposter… though while men certainly do experience this uncertainty and anxiety, studies suggest that the unsettling effects are frequently more significant and more persistent for women than for many men.

Experiencing the Imposter Phenomenon doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you at all, remember in terms of sheer numbers, Imposters are probably in the majority! It certainly doesn’t mean you “need fixing” in any way. However, you might want to find ways to dump your Imposter and learn to take more pleasure and pride in your achievements.

It’s common to see that Imposters readily acknowledge that their obvious and measurable successes are just down to luck, a fluke, someone being nice to them – almost any reason will do as long as it’s not that they themselves are good. If pushed really hard Imposters might, just might grudgingly admit that yes, they did achieve it but only because they worked so darn hard at it – as if hard work invalidates the achievement.

At the core of the Impostor Syndrome is often a limiting belief masquerading as truth.

The specific belief might be different for each of us but common examples include:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’ve been lucky – up til now
  • I don’t know enough
  • It should be easier than this

and beyond that belief is the paralysing fear that we’re not good enough and one day people will find out!

There are many ways to deal with these fears, some strategies for dealing with limiting beliefs are very quick and powerful but each and every one of us can take courage from the fact that feeling the emotion associated with a fear doesn’t mean we have to believe it or even act upon it.

Remember, FEAR is simply an acronym for False Evidence Appearing as Real.

And as Susan Jeffers recommends, we should feel the fear and do it anyway! There are so many very practical ways of building our confidence and developing practical skills that it seems a shame to waste our time feeling like an Imposter.

If you’d like to know more about dealing with the Imposter Syndrome, limiting beliefs or even fears, do drop me a line.