Updated: Oct 1
Have you ever had that feeling that you just aren't clever enough, qualified enough, experienced enough or generally good enough to deserve the job or position you hold? It is extremely common. It is known as "imposter syndrome" and can affect men and women of all ages. However, many people with imposter syndrome don't recognise it in themselves as they genuinely believe they are a fraud.
The irony is that imposter syndrome is typically associated with high-achievers. Therefore, you are most likely far more capable than you believe. Real frauds don't stress over getting things right all the time!
So, how can you tell if you have imposter syndrome (otherwise known as impostorism, imposter phenomenon and fraud syndrome)? Take a look at the list of symptoms below and ask yourself if you recognise any of these thoughts, feelings or behaviours.
Feelings of Inadequacy and Self-Doubt
You might have a constant feeling of self-doubt and lack self-confidence, no matter how well-qualified you are or how much experience you have. You are always waiting for someone to ask you to do something that you fear you will be unable to do. You might wonder how you got your job or worry that you will be "found out" and exposed as a fraud.
Always the Perfectionist
You believe that you must do everything perfectly or not at all. Maybe you set yourself extremely high standards and then beat yourself up when you fail to reach them. Do you find that you are never satisfied with your achievements, preferring to focus on any mistakes you believe you made? Perfectionism can be extremely tiring, depressing and time-consuming and is a common trait of those suffering from imposter syndrome.
Refusing to Own Your Success
You always play down your successes and find it hard when others compliment or congratulate you. Do you find yourself using phrases, such as, "It was nothing," or "Anyone could have done it" or, "I just got lucky"? You might even feel awkward or guilty about success and can even fear it as it puts the spotlight on you and might make you worry even more about being exposed as a fraud.
Feeling Dissatisfied and Frustrated
You may have a feeling, deep down, that you could do better but your self-doubt prevents you from going for that promotion or looking for a more challenging role. Therefore, you feel stuck in a job that is no challenge to you and you may even see people less qualified and experienced being given a role that you feel you could do better. If only you had the confidence...
So, what can you do about it?
1. Thought Observation
If you find that you are doubting yourself, comparing yourself unfavourably to others or worrying over a small mistake that you made, just acknowledge the thoughts and feelings and understand them. See them as thoughts and feelings. They are not you and they not real. This blog post on Cognitive Distortions could help you. Label that thought and try to think in a more realistic way. Perhaps you could think of an alternative thought or affirmation and repeat that to yourself instead. You could even imagine yourself explaining to the other person why you think you are an imposter and realise how it sounds. What would they likely say back? Imagine telling your boss that he only gave you the job as he felt sorry for you or because there were no other candidates. Really unpack that thought, hold it up to the light and look at it from an outsider's point of view.
2. Talk About It
Many people with imposter syndrome are afraid to admit their fears as they feel it will make them look weak or incompetent. However, remember that it is far more common than you think and the likelihood is that your mentors and peers will understand exactly how you feel and will reassure you. Sometimes just saying these things out loud helps you to see how wrong you are and gives you that shift in mindset that you need. If you can't talk to your colleagues or friends, then find a good counsellor or therapist. Hypnotherapy is great for overcoming your old thought patterns and changing and updating those old, unhelpful beliefs that you may have had since childhood.
3. Keep Your Tools Ready
If that self-doubt strikes, know that you have the tools to overcome those thoughts and feelings. It might mean that you have to stop for a few seconds to breathe and relax. If it is that critical voice that starts, then know how to quickly shrink and quiet it.
4. List Your Successes and Resources
Remind yourself of all the successes you've had in the past. Keep a list of all your qualifications if it helps, so that you can remind yourself that you ARE worthy and you have earned your place. Think about your personal strengths and resources. What are you good at? Write a list of everything you know you can do well. Keep a gratitude journal and make sure you note at least one thing a day that has gone well for you.
5. Overcome Perfectionism
Decide that you are going to make mistakes and see them as opportunities for learning. Allow yourself that bit of freedom to enjoy new experiences without feeling that you have to do everything brilliantly. Nobody is perfect and other people won't remember the small mistakes you make. They likely won't even notice!
6. Enjoy Your Success
When you do a good job, celebrate it. Accept praise and fight the habit of arguing or putting yourself down. Accept compliments with grace and step outside of your own mind to try to see how others perceive you. Even before you succeed, practise that feeling of success by using positive visualisation.
If you'd like to have a chat about imposter syndrome and how hypnotherapy could help, please book your initial consultation using the button below.