I have no clue what I’m doing and everyone is going to know. I don’t deserve to be here. I only got the job because my co-worker recommended me and I interview well.
– The Imposter
Sound familiar? It’s possible that while you’re navigating your current job, which you’re completely qualified for, you might also be experiencing the self-sabotaging phenomenon called Impostor Syndrome.
“People with imposter syndrome have a sense of inadequacy, dismiss their achievements, and are very critical of themselves,” says Dr. Pei-Han Cheng a psychologist at the Center for Counseling and Consultation at St. John’s University in New York City.
“Most of the time, they don’t have an accurate understanding of how competent they actually are because their mind is clouded by this belief that ‘I am a fraud.’”
Imposter syndrome — the feeling that you don’t deserve your job despite all of your accomplishments in the workplace — is a psychological phenomenon that people across all industries and experience levels face. Some 70% of people — particularly millennials — experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives, according to research from the International Journal of Behavioral Science.
Essentially an accumulation of insecurities, imposter syndrome is an easy and understandable trap to fall into — no matter WHO you are. The factors contributing to imposter syndrome are different for everyone, however. “Everything from anxiety, depression— there’s even correlations with graduate degrees or family expectations,” said Lauren Romansky, vice president of HR at Gartner. In the workplace, imposter syndrome often arises because employees don’t see the positive qualities in themselves that their coworkers or superiors might see, especially if positive feedback isn’t often expressed, added Romansky.
The feeling of being a fake comes in many different ways. In a Fast Company article, Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, categorizes imposter syndrome into four major subgroups:
Perfectionists set incredibly high goals for themselves, and if they fail to reach them, they will experience self-doubt.
This version of imposter syndrome is characterized by people who are workaholics. They tend to work harder to measure up to their colleagues, mainly because they’re convinced they’re frauds. It’s hard for them to enjoy time away from work, and they feel that they should always be being “productive.”
These people were the “smart ones” growing up. When they don’t get something right on the first try, they negatively judge themselves. Their standards are almost impossibly high––and they feel inadequate when they don’t meet them.
People who see asking for help as a sign of weakness tend to fall into this category. These individuals think that asking for help shows that they’re a fraud––they 100% believe that they should accomplish everything on their own.
Someone who falls into this type thinks they “tricked” their employer into hiring them. They fear being dubbed “inexperienced” or “unknowledgeable.”
Focus on how and why you got the job. It isn’t an accident that you are where you are now. You have the skill set, qualities and caliber to achieve what you have so far––keep that in mind when you find yourself thinking that you don’t!
Create possibility questions and new beliefs. Asking questions like “Who do I need to become to succeed?” and “What do I need to believe to succeed?” can help you focus on the bigger picture, rather than the false notions you have of yourself. Once you answer them, these will be your new beliefs that’ll keep you on track to success.
Challenge the beliefs and thoughts that show up. What advice would you give to a friend who is having similar thoughts? Oftentimes, you’ll answer in a more positive way than how you would when speaking to yourself.
Condition your new beliefs. Once you create beliefs that are inspiring, say them to yourself every day for 30 days. Repetition is a great way of forming solid habits.
Go out and do something that makes you feel good — like exercising, spending time with family and friends, or volunteering.
Celebrate every movement in the right direction. Perhaps most importantly, remember to celebrate your successes! Not every day will be perfect––and you may still have lingering thoughts of doubt––but every opportunity you take to actively work through it is a win.
No one deserves to feel like a failure. You were selected for your job for a reason! Keep in mind that you’re always smarter and better-qualified than you may think.