Fear of not knowing what you’re meant to be doing, frustration at not knowing the answer, feeling like you’re not good enough to be in your job. Sound familiar? Welcome to the Impostor Syndrome club – you’re in the 70% of the world who suffer with ‘feeling like a fraud’. You’re joined by the likes of; Kate Winslet, Tina Fey and Maya Angelou.
Also known as Impostor Phenomenon or Fraud Syndrome, Impostor Syndrome stems from a 1978 study from Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes that identified a phenomenon that was only occurring in women at the time, and more importantly, women who were achieving success within the workplace. The resulting title called ‘The Impostor Syndrome’ identified highly performing academic or professional women as feeling like they were ‘fooling’ everyone around them, and that eventually they would be caught out by their peers.
Impostor Syndrome over time
What started as a study that only identified professional women, has developed over time to identifying an equal split between men and women, with the millennial generation being the most susceptible to ‘feeling like a fraud’. When you watch Simon Sinek’s viral video on the millennial generation, it’s easy to see why this generation is suffering from a lack of confidence and ‘identity’, resulting in feeling like impostors within their workplace.
how to tell if you’re suffering from Impostor Syndrome
What might be easy to identify for some, might not be for others, and so when considering if you or a colleague are experiencing ‘Impostor Syndrome’ it’s important to understand external contributing factors. After all, frustration at a particular project problem might not constitute feeling like a fraud. This is also a sensitive subject that’s not always easy to identify, so approach the situation clearly and in an attentive manner.
It’s also important to remember that this is an emotional state of mind, and so the factors are not always visible, however with a detailed look into one’s work, presentation and actions, you may be able to identify impostor syndrome. Here are some things you could look out for:
struggling with tasks/fear of asking
This can exist especially within the millennial generation who are embarking on their careers often at an entry level. After all, they’re starting their career, and do not have the experience, full knowledge of the industry, role or company they’re working for.
Keep an eye out for those struggling with tasks – the way they’re acting might be to avoid the task itself out of fear of not knowing what to do, and dismay at asking for help and exposing their weaknesses to their colleagues/managers.
With this particular generation, it’s all about how you talk to them when approaching the situation. But this also relates to any generation. We can often feel like frauds simply because we don’t know what to do, or how to do something. Keeping an eye out for this trait amongst your teams will help you identify any problems, and help you work towards building strong and trustworthy relationships with your team.
focusing on failure
Imagine you’ve completed a task, project or a goal for the business. You go on to call it luck of the draw and not appreciate your talents. When we suffer from Impostor Syndrome, we automatically discredit the success as ‘luck’, rather than talent. We then focus on the negatives, failures or areas we need to improve. Whilst always looking to improve performance is important for personal growth, what helps us grow more is recognising what we’ve done well.
Those who suffer from Imposter Syndrome, often reject appraisal from peers, management and even friends or family. They just cannot comprehend the thought of having performed well and succeeded at something. Even the smallest of accomplishments can be seen as ‘lucky’ and undeserving of praise.
a real fear of failure
One of the main identifiers that unfortunately you can’t see, but is extremely common amongst those experiencing Impostor Syndrome, is a real fear of failure. This isn’t your normal, ‘ah I can’t fail, I must work harder to achieve’. This is a real fear that can almost paralyse you, making you counter-productive and more prone to the failure you’re afraid of.
you’ll never be good enough
A common trait among those suffering from Impostor Syndrome is the idea that they’ll never be good enough. This is reflective of rejecting praise, focusing on the negatives and fearing failure. For those who deal with Imposter Syndrome, the feeling of never being good enough also effects non-working related matters, from the way we dress, down to the way we act in social situations.
dealing with impostor syndrome
Whilst you can never fully ‘overcome’ Impostor Syndrome, you can manage it. We’ve put together a collection of tips we believe can help you on your path to dealing with ‘feeling like a fraud’.
DISCLAIMER: These tips are not guaranteed solutions, but ways which may be able to help those suffering from the Impostor Phenomenon. Try our course ‘The Impostor Syndrome’ if you’re looking for some professional help
discover what you’re good at
We’re going to ask you to step out of your comfort zone here and ask those around you to name three things that you’re good at. Then, pick the most common three answers and remind yourself whenever you’re feeling low that these are the three main things that you’re good at. Focus on them and appreciate them.
Okay, so it’s time to be open how you’re feeling with someone. Colleague, manager or family member it doesn’t matter who, but it’s important that you do. Being open about your mindset and concerns will help you relieve the weight from your shoulders and the positive effects this can have are endless. Clarity, happiness, inspiration and confidence can often stem from simply removing the weight.
practice makes perfect
Training is what helps us develop, and as with anything in life, practice makes perfect. This is also true about being confident. The old adage ‘fake it till you become it’ reigns true here, so take a look at our confidence infographic and ‘how to be confident at work’ blog and start putting into practice being confident. Before you know it, you’ll have become confident!
realise you’re not the only one
Yep, that’s right; at least two-thirds of your office has probably felt the same at some point in their life. What’s more, nearly everyone in your company didn’t know what to do at one stage… and that’s OK. Again, opening up about your feelings will develop some interesting conversations and relationships with peers you may not have thought you could relate to. It’s amazing what communication can do for you.
identify things to improve
Okay, so there’s always some quick wins that can help you strengthen your skill set, improve your confidence and develop your career so that you feel ‘in control’ and happier at work. First, work out what quick skills you think you can gain and be good at and develop them. Find training courses relative to those skills, or ones you feel you need to improve. Again, practice makes perfect!
our task for you
Right, so now you know ways in which to help identify Imposter Syndrome and some ways to help you overcome the feeling. Now is the time to put these tips into practice, and let us know how you get on. Feel free to come back and comment on the blog with your results, or better still, let us know if you have any different ways to help manage feeling like a fraud.