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The Imposter Phenomenon

Yes, it is real. Yes, you CAN overcome it!

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Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash
Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

Have you ever gotten a job/promotion you thought you received in error, you were so convinced that any time, you will be found out by your supervisor and colleagues?

Or,

Ever felt like all your accomplishments were a result of coincidence and luck and not your competence or skill?

Well, that’s the Imposter Phenomenon.

I first heard about the Imposter Phenomenon on a webinar about career development for women in STEM. I remember then that some of the symptoms resonated with me significantly. I still was not convinced it was a real thing. I soon discovered that not only is it real, it is also quite prevalent and affects people irrespective of gender, age, social status, or industry of specialization. An article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science shows that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.

So, what is the Imposter Phenomenon? Impostor Phenomenon/Imposter Syndrome (IP) refers to a pattern of behavior that causes you to doubt your accomplishments and to have a persistent deep-rooted fear of being exposed as a fraud. You believe you have only succeeded due to luck, and not a result of your talents, skills, or qualifications. It was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Clance later developed an impostor phenomenon test that allows you to rate yourself on the Clance IP Scale.

According to Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on the topic, there are five different types of imposter syndrome.

The Five Types of Imposter Syndrome

The Perfectionist

Sets excessively high and somewhat unrealistic goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience significant self-doubt.

The Superman/ woman

Convinced that they are frauds, they push themselves to work harder (often to extremes) to measure up. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of their life.

Natural Genius

Judges their competence based on speed and ease of accomplishing tasks. If they have to struggle to accomplish something or cannot achieve a task/goal on their first try, they feel shame, guilt, and unworthy.

The Soloist

Feels they have to accomplish tasks on their own. They find it difficult to ask for help as they interpret needing help as an indication of their failure and incompetence. They are often unable to delegate tasks.

The Expert

Feels the need to know every piece of information before they start a project. Constantly searches for new training courses and certifications to improve their skills. They rarely ask questions or participate in meetings for fear of appearing unintelligent if they do not know the answer.

If you have experienced any of these feelings or identify with any of the mentioned groups, you are not alone! I know I have. Young suggests that people who struggle with IP fall into one or a combination of the listed subgroups. Here are five tips that have been useful in helping me manage imposter syndrome:

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Self-validate

Take the time to appreciate how far you have come and how much you have already achieved. Encourage yourself, acknowledge your strengths and limitations, and set realistic goals for the future.

Accept your mistakes

See your mistakes as opportunities for development and not as evidence of perceived failure. Making mistakes is inevitable. You can not be an expert at everything, that is OK. Be kind to yourself.

Just Do It!… Literally

Encourage yourself to start that project you have been planning for months. There will never be a perfect time or perfect plan. Your work will never be 100% flawless and, you’ll never reach the finish line until you start the race.

WIP (Work in Progress)

Accept that you are a work in progress. We ALL are. You will never know it all. Adopt an attitude of continuous learning and stay curious.

Share and Ask for Help

Your insights are invaluable and unique. The people you think know it all do not and are just as eager to learn from you as you are to learn from them.

The truth is we all experience moments of doubt, that is perfectly normal. The goal is not to be crippled by them. When you step out of your mind and act despite your fears, you create avenues to actualize your potential.

Studies have shown that constant feelings of imposter syndrome can be detrimental to your mental health (resulting in low self-esteem, stress, and anxiety), physical-health, and your relationship with others.

However, once you overcome Imposter Syndrome, you will attain confidence that will catapult you to the next level of your career, and guess what? You will have fun doing it.

So, remember, 

You are talented and capable. Be kind to yourself and most importantly,

BET ON YOURSELF.


Originally published on Linkedin

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