What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is used to describe a mindset in which individuals hold a strong belief that they are defrauding others despite their real-life accomplishments.
People who battle this syndrome tend to be conflicted between others’ perception that they are valuable and their own opinion that they are inadequate.
Those with imposter syndrome are virtually incapable of embracing their achievements and persistently worry that they won’t be able to reproduce prior accomplishments, breeding a negative cycle of anxiety, guilt, and feelings worthless.
This dysfunctional thinking pattern can impact anyone, regardless of gender, age, social status, work history, skill level, or degree of expertise.
What are the signs of imposter syndrome?
Signs of imposter syndrome may include:
- Feeling deceitful or fraudulent
- Anxiety associated with being exposed as an imposter
- Inability to accurately assess personal competencies
- Disregard or underestimation of abilities and accomplishments
- Guilt and shame regarding success
- Self-sabotaging behaviours that limit personal, professional, or academic growth
- Fear of failure and fear of success
- Deep sense of ongoing self-doubt
- Persistent belief that others overestimate one’s abilities and knowledge
- Perfectionistic traits that trigger overworking and work burnout
- Extremely self-critical and tendency to overemphasise personal mistakes
How can imposter syndrome affect us?
- Imposter syndrome is characterised by effects detrimental to one’s mental, physical, and professional well-being.
- Linked to conditions such as anxiety, depression, low self esteem, physical or emotional exhaustion, chronic stress, and a weakened immune system.
- Individuals tend to hide emotions associated with imposter syndrome from others and struggle quietly, because they fear being “found out.”
In professional settings
- Most evident in academic and professional realms, affecting many capable and bright individuals.
- Typical to struggle with low self-confidence, performance anxiety, high expectations, and extreme fear of failure.
- Self-defeating habits: procrastination, difficulty asking for help, problems making decisions, ceasing to voice opinions, and overworking.
- As a result, they are likely to experience chronic stress, burnout, emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction.
- Imposter syndrome can impede professional growth and your ability to reach your full career potential.
Practical ways to overcome imposter syndrome
- Imposter feelings are often the result of irrational negative thoughts.
- Acknowledge the thought
- Ground yourself in the present moment, observe your thoughts without judgement
- Clearer frame of mind: Detect, interrupt, and overcome the beliefs that feed into your feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy
Consider the evidence
- Put your feelings aside and focus strictly on the evidence
- Gather all the relevant information and examine every single aspect that supports and discredits your beliefs
- Separating feelings from facts
- Looking at the concrete and relevant data, you can be better equipped
- This can help you figure out what the best solution is
Reframe how you view failure
- Past events may that validate your fear of failure but they don’t have to paralyse you
- Reframing your ideas about failure can really boost your sense of autonomy
- You can view a setback as something catastrophic or as a great opportunity to learn and grow from moving forward
- Access past lessons to find creative ways to improve, master your skills, and persevere
Use positive affirmations
- Thoughts impact your feelings and behaviours
- It’s important that you try to gain control of your thinking and choose your thoughts carefully
- After you gain the self-awareness of negative thoughts emerging, try switching your imposter-like mindset by giving positive self-affirmations
- Constructive self-affirming statement
- Positive self-affirmations will likely help switch unhelpful thoughts to empowering ones, which in turn will increase your self-confidence.
Stop comparing yourself to others
- Social comparison can increase feelings of insecurity
- Next time you catch yourself measuring yourself against others, try looking at others for inspiration, or comparing yourself to your ideal self
- This can help you stop feeling insecure, but also turns your attention inward, helping to discover your own natural talents and improve how you feel about yourself.
Know your strengths
- Reflect on past successes and milestones
- How have your own qualities and strengths shaped you into the person you are today
- Another way to look at this would be to ask yourself: how would you view your situation if you were a close friend?
- Appreciate unnoticed qualities, draw from past experiences.
- You can use these personal assets to overcome potential challenges in future endeavours
Embrace your success
- Resist the temptation to minimise or dismiss your own accomplishments. Try to make a conscious effort to acknowledge and celebrate each one
- Allow yourself and those around you to recognize your milestones
- Every step forward reflects your skills, hard work, efforts, and preparation
- Let these moments of victory - big or small - resonate with you mentally and emotionally
- This practice can help you manage or get rid of your imposter syndrome by reframing the way you think about yourself and your accomplishments
- You dedicate disproportionate amounts of time and energy to one specific aspect of your life
- If you feel this way about losing your job, missing out on a job or a promotion can feel like the end of your career
- It’s vital to balance your efforts among all the different pieces that make up your life, such as; family and friends, work, self-care and health and hobbies
- Diversifying your focus can protect you from the harmful effects and prevent mental and physical burnout.
Keep things in perspective
- You may be consumed with thoughts of inadequacy that small hurdles can feel much bigger than what they really are
- Take a step back and assess the situation at hand
- Ask yourself: will this matter in a week, month, or year?
- Remember - Keeping things in perspective can spare you from spiralling and help you focus on the causes that really matter
Set realistic expectations
- Aspiring to do better is healthy - placing demanding standards on yourself can leave you defeated
- Try to optimise your strengths and find realistic ways to improve your competence in your goal or task
- Take baby steps towards a reasonable objective and focus on your progress
- Stay on track, whereas placing the bar too high can sabotage your success
- Self-compassion can offset the emotions associated with (I.S) and liberate you from self-imposed pressures
- When thoughts or behaviours emerge, approach them with understanding, and replace with compassionate and forgiving ones
- Making mistakes is part of life and your personal growth
- A nurturing and less critical mentality can bring about self acceptance and encourage you to appreciate the person you are right now.
Seek support and talk about it
- You don’t need to deal with your imposter induced stress alone
- Consider seeking support in reassuring people like close friends, mentors, teachers, and co-workers
- People who can validate you and provide you with encouragement, guidance, and objective feedback
- You may discover that others have experienced these feelings too, which can help to normalise what you’re feeling and ease your imposter related emotions.
Support at Mazars
- Mental Health first aiders
- Supportive colleagues
- Supportive faith and allyship networks
- Private wellness rooms
- Private GP - 24/7 appointments
- 1:1 reviews and manager check ins
- Team events and social gatherings
- ‘In office days’ for all teams to get together
- Training and personal development days
- CSR days
Use to your advantage
- There may be an upside to imposter syndrome. ‘Imposters’ have an other-focused approach which makes them more interpersonally effective
- Imposter thoughts didn’t affect performance; instead, it helped individuals with the syndrome strive in their professions
- Instead of being ashamed of your imposter syndrome, you can find parts of your fear that may be rooted in real, tangible concerns, and address them accordingly
- Doubts and insecurities don’t have to interfere with your success and these thoughts can be used as a motivating force to learn, grow, and do better in your career, personal life, or anything you put your mind to.
- Develop self awareness
- Consider the evidence
- Reframe how you view failure
- Practise positive affirmations
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Know your strengths
- Embrace your successes
- Create balance
- Keep things in perspective
- Cultivate self-compassion
- Seek support and talk about it!