Imposter Syndrome – Defining and Overcoming

Imposter (or Impostor) Syndrome the ‘dirty little secret’ that afflicts millions of people, from the most famous to the most down-trodden.

Sometimes and for whatever reason, we can feel as if we do not deserve the success that we have obtained.

Perhaps we feel we were simply “lucky” at school or later, that the right questions simply came-up in the exams we sat, or that someone else’s results were accidentally swapped with ours.

We “know” we don’t deserve the results, promotions or positive feedback we get – whatever anyone else thinks or says to us.

Whilst, on the one hand, we know that this isn’t true, on the other hand, we do believe it’s true, and that part is the part that keeps nagging away in your head telling you that you don’t really deserve your success.

It is as if we believe that one day someone will turn up in our office and announce that we do not have the qualifications we think we have and that we are a fake.

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Where does Imposter Syndrome originate from?

As is the case with many ‘syndromes’, they don’t ‘officially’ exist until someone names them – in this case the term Impostor Syndrome was first so named by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

At the time it was found to disproportionately impact women (consider the issues around inequality in the 1970’s) because of decreased testosterone but as further research has been carried out it’s clear that many men experience it too.

70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome

It’s believed that around 70% of people have at some time experienced Impostor Syndrome – so if you’re reading this whilst sitting in a train carriage, there’s going to be at least two people near enough for you to touch that have this issue somewhere in their day-to-day lives.

Many famous people write about their I.S. moments.

Rather like how a virus doesn’t care who it infects, Imposter Syndrome doesn’t filter out its targets. In fact, it does seem that the cleverer or more capable someone is, the higher the possibility is that they’ll suffer from I.S. t sometime in their life.

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh-oh, they’re going to find me out now.” 

Maya Angelou.

“Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”

 Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

“Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999 … I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”

 Natalie Portman, Actress, Harvard alumni, during 2015 graduation speech

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What thoughts support Imposter Syndrome?

Many suffers of Impostor Syndrome also hold onto feelings of shame, anxiety and lack of self-belief. Whilst many sufferers hold down well-paid, high profile careers there are also sufferers who find themselves stuck at the opposite end of the income distribution curve.

For them their Imposter Syndrome keeps them stuck, poor, or just getting by.

Correlation with Under-Earning

Interrelated with I.S. is the issue of under-earning. The overlap is simple – if you’re so confident you’re no good doing what you’re doing, then you’re not going to put yourself forward for promotions, payrises and suchlike, lest you’re found out as a fake.

If you feel you could be an underearner, (and if you’re reading this I’d suggest that you are), then you might find these articles helpful. They should allow you to understand more about this nasty little beastie.

Rather like how ‘Misery loves Company’, Imposter Syndrome and Under-Earning are bosom buddies.

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Are you ‘Shoulding’ all over the place?

One trait that many of the clients I’ve worked with regarding I.S. have is that they’re inveterate “‘should’ers’.

You know those thoughts, they go something like this:

“I should be prettier / taller / thinner / more capable, etc by now.”

“I should have closed the sale / secured better terms / presented more smoothly.”

“I should have prepared better / researched longer / practised more.”

The list goes on.

Does this sound like you?

If you feel like you’re someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome then, firstly, I feel for you, as it’s quite a cruel and unforgiving way to think about yourself, but you don’t have to carry on doing this any longer.

If you’d like to find out how you can quickly, permanently, and I’d like to suggest awesomely, rip that nasty little I.S. programme out of your head once and for all, get in touch.

We could schedule a quick call & take it from there. I work with my clients in person, online and even by telephone (remember those?).

Let’s make change happen – soon.

Until we speak.

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