Sally is a successful Senior Designer, well respected and high achieving – she outperforms her counterparts numerous times, and yet, she is constantly waiting to be found out. She lives in terror of the day when someone is going to walk into her office and ask what on earth she thinks she is doing in such a high powered job.
And it’s not just those in senior positions who suffer from these kind of feelings. Research shows that around 70% of us feel we aren’t worthy of the job we are doing at some point in our careers. Academic research by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes reveals that an estimated 2 out of every 5 successful people consider themselves frauds.
Why is this and, why are women, in particular, more vulnerable to something commonly known as Imposter Syndrome?
This term was coined following an academic study in the 1980’s that was centred on women who were able to break the glass ceiling. It revealed that they believed they were only promoted because they were lucky or judged to be better than they actually were. This telltale sign of a disconnect between actual and perceived performance is key – despite lots of proof that they are doing well those with Imposter syndrome believe they are ‘faking’ it and even praise can make them feel uncomfortable, compounding their feelings of incompetence.
How to beat it
If you recognise that you suffer from Imposter Syndrome and can see how it holds you back don’t despair – there are things you can do to minimise and eventually remove the feelings completely:
For example, next time you’re at a networking event where you feel everyone else is more knowledgeable or more important than you, your stomach is whirling, your palms are sweaty and your ‘flight or fight’ mode of survival is kicking in making you want to make your excuses and leave – don’t. Think about a ‘broaden and build’ strategy instead where you can use the opportunity to learn and grow instead. Give yourself a goal of talking to 5 new people and learning something about their business/job – people love talking about themselves so a few prompt questions are all you need.
If feeling like an Imposter can sometimes make you sabotage your career check out this article for tips to move forward rather than backwards and get what you want from your career, and if a career change is on the cards then tips on understanding how to make what could be a life changing decision can be found here.
And finally, be grateful for what you have achieved despite all these negative feelings, and celebrate how being ‘you’ has made you successful. As Oscar Wilde said
‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
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The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention.
Clance, Pauline R.; Imes, Suzanne A.
Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, Vol 15(3), 1978, 241-247.
Originally published at www.careertree.org.uk