The Impostor Syndrome

25 Jul

70% of all people feel like fakes at one time or another. Some 30% have it to the degree that it interferes with their work and their life. A phenomenon labeled Impostor Syndrome.

A psychological research from the early 1980’s found that many women especially skilled professionals had high levels of self-doubt. The more successful they become, the more they feel like frauds. They feel as though they’re fooling people. There’s a conflict between their self-image and external reality.

This is certainly true of some of the females I’ve spoken to who believe:

  • Am I going to be found out one day at work for not knowing enough?
  • Did I get this job by fluke?
  • Is my partner with me because I’m low maintenance and doesn’t really find me attractive?
  • Do my friends really like me or just putting up because of how long they’ve known me?

Reading a recent article in Shortlist magazine on Impostor Syndrome (IS), it confirmed my long held belief on this. I share below five practical tips on how to unlock IS and live the life you deserve.


5 Steps to Conquer IS

1.  Self belief

I always say if you don’t believe in yourself then who will? It may not be your natural disposition. But I say take the positive outcomes in your life as GREAT success and see the mistakes as a FREE learning experience.

2.  Visualise success

As a former athlete I have learnt that if you want to win you have to first picture it. You’ve got to see the gold medal around your neck or else the No.2 and No.3’s will leave you stranded on the starting line.

Instead of thinking you’ll go blank during your next presentation, visualise on getting a standing ovation just after delivering your last words. Fix your gaze on the result and it’ll keep you calm and focused.

3.  Perfectionism

Now I know this is a big issue. Since you feel you’re never good enough or spend all your living day trying to make all you do to be perfect. This is ultimately to prove yourself and be accepted by your peers. By being perfect you hope you won’t receive any criticism.

But here’s the truth, no one is ever perfect. What you should say to yourself is; “I will do the things that count to near perfection and the less important to satisfaction”. Do a great job when it matters most, don’t persevere over routine tasks. This gives you more time and energy. For only through having energy can you do the big things in life you can be proud of.

4.  Learn to accept faults/ failures

We all fail. So don’t take it as I’ll never get that perfect job as I’ve been to 30 interviews and no one has hired me, therefore I must be useless at my chosen profession. 

Think objectively, separate feelings from facts. Is it my lack of relevant experience? Will I need to take extra courses, gain work experience or maybe better my interview skills?

By accepting your mistakes and taking steps to correct them you’re half way to achieving your ultimate goals. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”. So find out the lessons and use them to your advantage in the future.

Don’t be crippled by the fear of not having an answer to every problem in your career. People will respect you more for being honest and showing a willingness to learn.

5.  Inner voice

Who do you speak to most? Answer – Yourself

So be very aware of the thoughts running through your mind. We play out our internal beliefs – the mental tapes which trigger impostor feelings. We often try to satisfy a sceptical judge with impossible standards: ourselves!

Think positive thoughts and take positive actions. When you start a new job or project for example, instead of thinking, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “It’s normal not to know everything but I will learn more as I progress”.

In the end dealing with Impostor Syndrome starts with accepting yourself. The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. It also helps to talk about it with someone you trust, being more open helps you gain perspective on your feelings. And finally, recognize your successes and reward yourself for getting the important things right. Imagine how much you could accomplish if YOU told YOURSELF, “You can do it!”


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2 Responses to “The Impostor Syndrome”

  1. Sherry July 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    I have certainly felt inadequate and not qualified for what I am doing at times. Afraid of being found out. This is some good advice. Thanks!

    • NaCHMO July 27, 2010 at 5:39 am #

      I am glad the article has been useful to you. Keep me updated on implementing the practical tips mentioned.

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