Imposters are all around us…
You graduate high school and are off to University. Your parents tell you not to worry and just “fake it till you make it”. You stick it out in school and remind yourself that this is the time for fun before the big bad real world becomes your reality. Besides, you didn’t really do much to get into University, it was a result of being lucky in high school. You work hard and graduate, telling yourself that everyone graduates and most of your classmates are much smarter than you are. You move to the big city, get the job of your dreams and all of a sudden your confidence comes crashing down like the tower of Jenga you once played with in the good ol’ days.
You start to notice yourself sitting at your desk wondering if your colleagues are starting to figure out that you don’t know what you are doing at work. The sight of your boss rounding the corner gets your heart racing, you start dripping with sweat and your mind races with thoughts like “my boss is going to realize I have no idea what I’m talking about”, “I don’t belong here” and “it’s only a matter of time before they all figure out my secret”.
When will they find out that I’m really an IMPOSTER?
Does this sound familiar? Likely. Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. And a LOT of us live with these types of thoughts which result in negative consequences including chronic self doubt, negative self-talk, low self-esteem and feelings of intellectual fraudulence. Researchers believe that approximately 70% of us live with these feelings at some point in our lives which means that most of us are inflicted by these unhelpful thoughts, myself included.
By definition, Imposter Syndrome, coined by Psychologists in 1978, is a collection of feelings of inadequacy despite evidence that suggests the opposite is true. It’s the feeling that you are posing as a competent successful employee but in reality you are incompetent, not good enough, and essentially a fraud. You notice patterns of thought that over internalize failure, attribute your success to luck, and discount your success. These patterns of thinking can leave us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and paralyzed with fear.
Wondering if you are living with Imposter Syndrome?
Common signs include:
1. Feeling anxious when others give you praise. You feel like you will be unable to live up to their expectations. For example, “They may think I’m great at presentations but if they really knew the truth they would know I am faking it”.
2. You worry you will be “found out” for not being good enough, smart enough, etc.
3. You attribute your success to luck. For example, “I was only accepted to the program because I’m lucky” or “I lack the skills to do the job so it was a fluke I got the offer”
3. You believe you are less intelligent than others. For example, “My friends are smarter than I am” or “I am not as smart as people think I am”.
4. You seek validation from others but don’t believe what they tell you. For example, asking people if you are good enough but when the offer you evidence you negate it.
If you are feeling this way, you can practice shifting these patterns of thinking by examining the evidence related to each of these unhelpful thoughts. What makes these thoughts not true? What evidence suggests differently? In therapy, we use this strategy among others to teach you have to shift your perspective of yourself to reduce your physical symptoms, improve your mood and increase your sense of self worth.