Am I an Imposter? – How to identify and manage your imposter feelings

[Guest post by Athina Frantzana, PhD]

Do you believe that others have an inflated view of your abilities or skills? Do you fear that they will find out the truth and expose you as a fake? Do you constantly attribute your success to external factors such as luck?

Then you almost certainly suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome (IS), or Phenomenon, was first coined in 1978 by P. Clance and S. Imes in a paper on the characteristics and dynamics of IS in high-achieving women. However, we now know that IS symptoms have been noticed not only on women, but a lot of people; for example, someone starts a new job or a new course, or someone who has been promoted or assigned a big project.

Some specific groups of people and lifestyles are also at high risk of IS: students, academics, underrepresented groups, people with high-achieving parents or first generation graduates, people in creative fields. Actually, research has shown that IS affects more than 70% of both women and men at some point in their career!

IS1b

 

So, what are the symptoms that make it clear to you that you suffer from IS and you need to take action?

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Working exceptionally hard
  • Hiding true opinions
  • Perfectionism
  • Undermining achievements
  • Discounting praise
  • Sabotaging performance
  • Finding a “superior” mentor to impress

We need to notice that if you have other symptoms that are not common to IS, like anxiety or obsessive behaviours, you should seek medical help and advice. IS is not classified as a mental illness or condition.

And what if you have these symptoms? How can they affect you?

Potential consequences of  IS include:

  • Minimising interactions with others in fear of being discovered which leads to isolation;
  • Fear of taking up new tasks by creating unrealistic standards which leads to missing out opportunities;
  • Feeling unworthy and not good enough to progress in your job which leads to staying stuck in the same position and responsibilities;
  • Comparing yourself to others, like family or friends, which can lead to isolation from important people in your life;
  • All the above can lead to fatigue and depression, which can worsen all the IS symptoms.

Well now, I know many of you might be going through one of the above situations, but do not despair! It is possible to move beyond your imposter and be the best version of yourself!

How?

Brené Brown talks about the 3 C’s, the 3 things you need to take on your life-career journey: Courage, Compassion, Connection. You need to be yourself, feel the pain and still move forward, keep in touch with your values and the people who love and respect you. Focus on facts and on your strengths.

Do you own your success? Having a strong self-awareness of your personal successes is the first step to overcoming IS! Equally important is to get clear on your strengths. People who suffer from IS tend to overlook their strengths and focus on their weaknesses. And finally, it is important to talk about it. Talk about your feelings to your peers, your mentor, your coach, an expert..

Professor P. Arnold once told me how she deals with her IS: “I write down all the nice things I have done or been told, keep them in a folder on my desk, and I reach out for them whenever I need to.”

Do not feel discouraged if your imposter feeling don’t vanish quickly or completely. As you work on it, you learn; and there is always more to learn!

 

EVERYONE FEELS LIKE AN imPOSTER SOMETIMES, AND THAT'S OK. (1)

 

If you feel like you need more help with this, I run a 7-week 1-2-1 Coaching Program focused on managing your Imposter Syndrome and boosting your self-confidence. Click here to have a look using the password LETMEHELPYOU and enjoy 50% off the program! The offer expires on the 31st of August (midnight UK time), and it is available for a limited number of programs starting from the 7th of September until December, on a first come, first served basis. So, be quick! 

 

 

Athina Frantzana,PhD is an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and Mentoring in STEM specialist-researcher. She is the founder of Spread the Word, which helps individuals, companies and organisations to create inclusive workplaces through innovative, evidence-based and tailored strategies. 

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