Imposter syndrome

Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes came up with the term ‘imposter syndrome’, defining it as…

…A feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement”.

Or in other words: when you feel like a fraud who’s bound to be caught out sooner or later. If you’re battling with imposter syndrome in your career, there are a few ways to deal with it.

  1. Acknowledge it.

Recognise the feeling and any associated destructive thoughts. Write them down if necessary. Remind yourself that if you were actually an imposter, you wouldn’t be concerned about coming across as an imposter. You’d be too tied up with deceiving people.  

  1. Take the pressure off yourself.

You’re not perfect and no one is perfect – everyone has room to grow, develop and learn new things. Feeling like an imposter suggests you’re out of your comfort zone, and it’s in that stretch zone where some of your best learning can happen. If in doubt, remember that you’re not alone – many people feel like imposters.

  1. Stop worrying about what others think of you.

Underneath those voices of doubts, imposter syndrome means worrying what other people think of you, your work and your capability. Chances are you deserve to be in the position you’re in, and you’re well suited to the work you’re doing. Give yourself some credit. Rather than using your energy to hypothesise about what people could say about you, channel that energy into doing what’s expected of you, and then some.

  1. Re-write your script.

That inner voice asking you questions like ‘What if I get found out?’ can be worked on and edited, over time. Those doubts may link into a deeper limiting belief you have about yourself and your capability, which ultimately restricts your potential. Try re-framing the questions or statements that pop into your mind when you’re in imposter mode, so that they’re more reasonable and positive. ‘What if they all think I do a terrible job on this presentation?’ could become ‘I’ve prepared for this presentation as best I can, and I’m going to give it my best effort.’

After all, what more can you do that’s better than your best?

This post was inspired by Ashley Stahl’s piece on Forbes and Emilie Wapnick’s How to be Everything book.