How 'Imposter Syndrome' Can Be Helpful | The Column
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
A lot of us experience it; it’s the opposite of arrogance, but it still sits in the same field of false beliefs. When someone suffers from imposter syndrome, it is unwarranted; there can be a mountain of evidence as to why someone is good at their job, but the person suffering will still feel inadequate.
I can’t speak for everyone who gets imposter syndrome, but for me, I feel it on a weekly basis, if not daily. Imposter syndrome involves me:
Always feeling like I’m going to be ‘caught out’
Feeling like I’m not being productive enough
Worried that I’m not the best I can be at a job
Fearing when someone asks to see my work, for fear of it being ‘wrong’
Always thinking and going overboard
Needing constant praise
Thinking I’m going to be fired for incompetence
ANY OF THESE RING A BELL?
I have always been an overachiever, but before being an adult I never really felt like an imposter in my academic life. It’s only when I became a proper adult, with a job and responsibilities that I suddenly felt the towering goals begin to hone in on me.
I think part of the reason a lot of people have imposter syndrome in their career is because we all rely on jobs and money. We want to do our best in order to keep a hold of our jobs, to prove ourselves worthy.
I go through bouts of anxiety where I feel like I’m not good enough anyway, but when that is focused on work it magnifies. Despite all the evidence, such as passing the interview stage and actually fulfilling the role I was hired for, I still feel like I’m not good enough. Even the smallest slip up, like a typo in an email to an important client, will send my mind whirring. I’ll be so hard on myself, to the point of an anxiety attack at my desk.
Now that’s not good at all. But, imposter syndrome isn’t all bad.
It’s never good to be on the verge of an anxiety attack, but feeling uncomfortable in your job is not always a bad thing. Discomfort allows us to grow, rather than becoming complacent. Particularly in a new job, the anxiety of imposter syndrome can be overwhelming, but with the right amount of stress, it can really push you to become the best you can be. By trying to hit your goals when you feel like this, you’re much more likely to achieve anything.
Once you’ve proven yourself in your job, the verge of imposter syndrome keeps you from becoming stagnant. It’s not a fun feeling, but if you utilise it, rather than let it cripple you, then you can reach for that promotion without the anxiety holding you back. It will still be there, but rather than treating those feelings like a block, view them as the bitchy classmate (who’s opinion doesn’t matter).
Imposter syndrome is hard. There are days I’m thinking ‘why haven’t I been fired yet,’ when of course I’m not going to be; I’m good at my job, I work hard, and I fulfil my goals.
When imposter syndrome hits you hard, my one tip is to remember the evidence for why you are not an imposter. Whether you meet your sales goals, you hit your deadlines, or you deliver the right pitch with your boss, remember these small wins. They will help you fight your imposter syndrome.
Write a list of your accomplishments, and when you’re down, read them over and over. Use them as affirmations.
Because ultimately, you are not an imposter; you’re a super star, and you just need reminding of that sometimes.
I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY:
Write down your wins, and review them when you feel stuck.
Not all anxiety is bad – it can drive you forward.
If you’re really struggling, ask for help.
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