Chloe Pumares explores the ways we can overcome Imposter Syndrome
This past year has been one like no other, and has undoubtedly affected many of us in ways that we may never have experienced before. Imposter syndrome (IS) – you have likely heard this term mentioned before, and for some this year, you may have experienced it for the first time ever.
Imposter syndrome causes those suffering with it to believe that they are not ‘good enough’ or that they have only achieved their success due to luck rather than their own hard work. It can also lead you to feel you are waiting for someone to find you out, and that you are not as intelligent or capable as people perceive you to be, this is not only applied to intelligence and achievement but also perfectionism and socialising. Put simply you feel like a fraud or a phony. For many this can be debilitating and make it difficult to focus on any upcoming tasks. Those who experience it can be from a variety of backgrounds regardless of social status, work status, skill level or expertise. Psychologist Audrey Ervin says that today imposter syndrome can apply to anyone who “isn’t able to internalize and own their successes.”
It was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, and since has been researched extensively. Despite this detailed research it is still unclear as to why people experience IS, although some experts believe it is linked to certain personality traits or childhood memories as well as your environment.
Some common characteristics of IS include self-doubt, attributing success to external factors, overachieving and sabotaging your own success, just to name a few. Expert Valerie Young, author of ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women’ which talks about the subject, has categorised it into subcategories; the perfectionist, the superwoman/man, the natural genius, the soloist and the experts. These subgroups can be useful in identifying the patterns of behaviour linked to IS and that may be holding you back from reaching your full potential.
A survey by TotalJobs found that younger people are feeling it much more than older generations with 48% of Gen Z feeling like imposters.Totaljobs
Now that I have covered what Imposter syndrome is, and how it can manifests itself in our everyday lives I think it is important to look at suggestions of how to overcome it.
There are a lot of websites out there that have a list of tips regarding dealing with IS and I have collated a few tips that I think are the most helpful.
The first step often given, and one I think is most important is to acknowledge these thoughts and put them into perspective. This can help you recognise IS and also allow you to understand how these thoughts affect you. For example ask yourself do they help or hinder me?
The next important step is to break the silence and talk about your feelings. For many knowing that there thoughts have a name can help, as can speaking to other people about how you feel and realising you are not alone. You can talk about these feelings with anyone you feel comfortable with, it could be a friend or a tutor, or if you want to delve more deeply into your feelings a professional psychologist.
Another step is to recognise when the thoughts take hold. It is one thing to acknowledge these feelings and put them into perspective once, but something as recurring as Imposter syndrome needs to be recognised as many times as you can. By recognising when these thoughts occur, such as what environment are you in, who are you surrounded by, can help you to identify where your self-doubt stems from, which may be related more to social stereotypes than a sign of your ineptness.
Finding success in your failures is common advice often given to those who experience IS. Many see failure as the be all end all, when actually failing shows you have tried, the success comes from getting up and trying again. Many famous figures have spoken about failure, Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Or Albert Einstein “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” even contemporary famous figures such as Oprah have spoken about failure; “Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” The underlying idea here is to change your mindset and develop a new script regarding your self-doubt.
Many see failure as the be all end all, when actually failing shows you have tried, the success comes from getting up and trying again.
Looking at the effect Covid-19 has had on experience of Imposter syndrome, its clear that it can flare up when people are thrown into a new work situation, the reality for most in the past year as many have had to adjust to working and studying from home – which can be incredibly daunting. A survey by Totaljobs found that younger people are feeling it much more than older generations with 48 per cent of Gen Z feeling like imposters.
Personally, I can relate to a lot of what I spoke about in this article, I think a lot of University students feel self-doubt and like frauds at various points in their university career, but what is important to take away from this is that you are not alone, you are not an ‘imposter’ and you can talk to people about it.
As Young writes in her book, most experience a normal amount of self-doubt but we should not let it control us. The goal is for people to still be able to “have an imposter moment, but not an imposter life.”