You’ve worked hard to get where you are in life, you’ve put the work in and got the psychological scars to prove that you deserve all of your success. But, every once in a while, that niggly little voice at the back of your mind questions your achievements.
The reality is that imposter syndrome is more common than you probably thought, even Michelle Obama experiences it. Up to 62% of UK adults experience what is known as imposter syndrome. But what is it exactly?
It’s an irrational feeling that your accomplishments have occurred due to luck or good fortune, as opposed to your natural talent and ability.
Imposter syndrome is a theory that was first identified back in 1978. Initially, it was thought to affect mostly women, but since then, further research has shown that men get it too.
Perhaps what’s less well known is that different individuals experience imposter syndrome in different ways, purely dependent on the person and the circumstance which they find themselves in.
Read on to see how different types of personalities experience imposter syndrome and ultimately, how to overcome those feelings.
The ‘super’ person
These are people who continually push themselves to breaking point in an attempt to prove that they aren’t imposters. Success is the only measurement they know, and they begin to get stressed when they aren’t experiencing it.
The ‘go-it-alone’ person
These people feel as if they have to do everything on their own as asking for helping is a sign of weakness, acceptance of defeat, and ultimately, admittance that they are a fraud.
These people are accustomed to taking things in their stride. When they find something too difficult or struggle to complete a task, they automatically assume that they aren’t good enough.
They want to know everything and without it they are afraid to suggest their opinion or take otherwise calculated risks. They will refrain from putting themselves forward with task that sits beyond their level of guaranteed expertise in fear of looking stupid.
With this group, it’s 100 per cent or nothing at all. There could be one suggested amendment to a 200-page document, and they would take this as a failed project, feeling unaccomplished.
How to combat these feelings of discontent?
Talk it through
The first thing you need to do is talk about how you feel. As we’ve previously noted, more than 60 per cent of the UK population experience the same feelings. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.
There is no denying that every once in a while, we get out of our depth — we’re only human at the end of the day. Realistically, you wouldn’t be able to learn if you didn’t have to, once in a while, step beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Accept that sometimes you will have to hold your hands up and say, ‘I’m stuck’, and things will get a whole lot easier.
Learn to appreciate success
Sometimes, for someone with imposter syndrome, the difficulty is not being able to appreciate success and recognise when they have performed well. This is particularly true for those who fall into the ‘perfectionist’ category. In order to overcome this dissatisfaction, you need to take a step back every now and again, realise your achievement, and pat yourself on the back.
Create an image in your head of success
Perhaps by dressing the part. Alternatively, think of a changing room before a cup final. Beyond the 90 minutes, if we choose to focus our attention on football for example, the image in the mind of the players is one of glory. Visualise lifting the hypothetical trophy and don’t fixate on being branded as a ‘fraud’ along the way.
Ask for help
Do you think that the great leaders and winners of yesteryear, whether it be in business or politics, succeeded alone? No, is the answer. Asking for help is by no means an acceptance of defeat. On the contrary, asking for help is an identification within that means you understand you have more scope to learn.
You will almost never find a situation where potluck is the sole reason behind your current position.
Believe in yourself.