Do you sometimes feel that you don’t deserve your success or that your achievements are flukes that can be put down to just good luck? Do you feel that it’s only a matter of time until you are ‘found out’?
If you do then you’re certainly not alone. These feelings are so common they have a name – Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome was first identified by psychologists in 1978. There are three defining features: a belief that others have an inflated view of your abilities, a fear that your true abilities will be found out, and a tendency to attribute your success to luck or extreme effort. There have been many studies into Imposter Syndrome since then, including one in 2011 that found that 70% of people will experience the phenomenon at some point in their lives. And it’s not just a ‘women’s issue’ – research now suggests that men are just as likely as women to experience impostorism.
Imposter Syndrome is most common when we’re moving out of our comfort zone and facing periods of change or uncertainty … such as returning to work after a long career break.
If Imposter Syndrome strikes, here are our tips to help you tackle it:
1. Remember these feelings are normal. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone, even people who seem to be the most confident and capable. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has been quoted as saying: “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.” And even Albert Einstein considered himself an “involuntary swindler.”
2. Avoid putting your successes down to luck. Write down all your career and personal achievements to date, and think about the role that your abilities and hard work played. It will become clear to you that your successes were largely due to your hard work and abilities – not ‘just luck’. Read this blog for advice.
3. Reconnect with your professional self. If you’re doubting yourself because it’s been a while since you were in the workplace, remember that you are the same professional person you always were, you are just out of practice. Aim to reframe your time outside the workplace as a positive not a negative.
4. Ask friends and family for feedback on your strengths and skills. Listening to what others say about what you do well will help you challenge your negative thoughts. Remember – you’re often your own harshest critic.
5. Keep a feedback log. Once you’re back in a new role, keep a log of all the positive feedback you receive – via formal feedback sessions, thank you emails or verbal compliments. If Imposter Syndrome does hit, look at this log to remind yourself that you are a competent and experienced professional who deserves to be where you are.
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