Does this situation sound familiar? You finally got the promotion you’ve been waiting for. Or you’ve been recognised for a prestigious award. Your first thought is probably excitement. Because you’re only human and this stuff is, quite rightly, exciting. But then there’s a pit in your stomach. You start questioning yourself: do I deserve it? Is this a mistake? A stroke of luck? Is there someone more worthy?
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of impostor syndrome rearing its head.
It’s estimated that a shocking 70% of the population will experience imposter syndrome at one point or another. It’s surprising when you consider the amount of people you meet who seem to have it all together and are winning at life.
Impostor syndrome can happen in every part of our lives – both professionally and personally. But you might swallow the feeling and carry that burden alone, assuming your problems aren’t ‘bad enough’ for treatment. That others have it much worse than you, therefore making you a fraud for struggling or seeking out help.
But one of the most common manifestations of impostor syndrome is in the workplace. We feel we’re not worthy of our success or that other people deserve our opportunities more. We wait for the moment where the other shoe drops.
A psychological pattern
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern that can impact our mental health, confidence, and self-esteem.
It stems from a belief and persistent internal fear that we’re not good enough. That others are better. And that we’re a ‘fraud’ who’s always inches away from being found out. We continually reinforce and internalise this fear within ourselves until it becomes too much.
If we’re successful or achieve something great, we struggle to accept this. Instead, we pick ourselves apart, assume it’s a fluke, and start fearing the moment everything will come crashing down. We feel undeserving of the success we’ve achieved and constantly wonder whether others can sense our inability.
Even when faced with evidence to the contrary, we still convince ourselves we’re not good enough. You were given a promotion because of all the hard work you’ve done. Your boss could spend twelve hours running through every single success that brought you to this point, and your impostor syndrome would still find a hole in the story.
The truth is, anyone can find themselves tied down with feelings of inadequacy or incompetence. The most blasé, put-together person in the room could be battling with impostor syndrome and you or I wouldn’t have the slightest clue.
What can we do about it?
There’s no hard and fast rules for overcoming impostor syndrome. It’s more about disarming the thoughts and fears as they present themselves. Doubt is normal. Fear is normal. But a debilitating sense of impostor syndrome doesn’t have to be.
Try approaching these thoughts with curiosity, but try not to engage with them. You can acknowledge a pang of anxiety that you don’t deserve the promotion. But then bring yourself back to the facts. You did get the promotion. And the worry that you’re undeserving is just that – an internalised worry that starts and ends within you. By framing negative thoughts in this way, you can remove their power and influence. They become passing thoughts with no real weight or significance.
It can also be extremely beneficial to take the time to explore everything that’s formed your current belief system. An underlying sense of not being good enough will have roots in your past. By talking through your past experiences and notable events, you can uncover specific moments in time that have led you to fear your worth and ability.
From here, you rework your beliefs and thinking patterns to approach success and growth from a different position. One of acceptance and positivity, rather than fear and scepticism.
Impostor syndrome is an extremely common issue. One that many of us will likely have experienced first-hand. And while moments of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy are part and parcel of the human condition, it is within your power to take ownership of these thoughts and minimise their impact. You’re where you are for a reason – so own it.