What is imposter syndrome?
21st February 2019
By Lyndsey Hall
If you’ve ever questioned your own abilities, felt unworthy of your role, and worried that you’ll be “found out” by your colleagues, then you’ve probably suffered from imposter syndrome.
What is ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
Described as a pattern of thinking that leads people to lose confidence in themselves, their accomplishments and their ability to do their job, imposter syndrome is a disorder that leads to individuals becoming stressed and can be incredibly destructive if left unchecked. Not only can it turn positive moments into negatives and put a dampener on an individual’s work related accomplishments, it can also present itself as severe anxiety and self-doubt which can inhibit an individual’s ability to perform at their full potential.
If you’re reading this and nodding along, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most people suffer from some degree of imposter syndrome at some point in their career. It could be after a promotion or change of role, when you’ve taken on more responsibility or a big pay increase, or for some people it can seem to appear out of the blue.
How can you beat it?
As with all mental illnesses, it’s important to recognise it for what it is and take control of the situation. Whilst not an officially-recognised “psychological disorder”, imposter syndrome is a real occurrence and can often be identified as work-related anxiety or stress. Like any other pattern of thinking, it is learned and reinforced in the individual’s mind, so it can therefore be addressed through retraining your brain and adopting healthier patterns of thinking.
One trick that could help you deal with imposter syndrome is to keep a visual record of all your accomplishments, both at work and at home. Write them down in a notepad or on a chalkboard on your wall, or even on post-it notes stuck around your mirror. Every time you need a reminder of just how brilliant you really are, read back through everything you’ve achieved and remember that those accomplishments are real, your negative thoughts and feelings are not.
Another way to boost your self-confidence, and make a positive impact at the same time, is to offer to help others at work. By mentoring a new or more junior teammate, you’ll not only get a reminder of how knowledgeable, skilled and valuable you are, you’ll also get that feel-good factor from helping someone else. Donating your time and talents is one of the best ways to ground yourself and keep mental illness at bay, as it takes the focus off your own situation for a period of time and gives you some perspective, as well as a warm, fuzzy feeling.
If you’re suffering with imposter syndrome and it’s starting to impact on your life at work and at home, you might benefit from seeking professional help. You could contact a professional coach or therapist, or visit your GP as they can often refer you for counselling or recommend methods for changing your pattern of thinking and improving your mental wellbeing.
Have you ever suffered from imposter syndrome? What coping mechanisms can you recommend for others who might be battling self-doubt and anxiety at work? Leave a comment below or share your tips on our Twitter.