“The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.”—Valerie Young, Ed.D., Author and Internationally-Recognized Expert on Imposter Syndrome
An estimated 70% of people experience impostor feelings at some point in their lives. When this term was coined, it was believed to only affect professional women, however, it has since been found to affect both men and women. Interestingly, though, women have been found to be more susceptible to it, as women tend to give in to their self-doubt more.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
The term “impostor phenomenon” was developed in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, two American psychologists. It is recognized by experts in the field that, “individuals with impostor phenomenon experience intense feelings that their achievements are undeserved and worry that they are likely to be exposed as a fraud.” For a more narrow definition, it has also been described as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness who are highly successful but unable to internalize their success.”
Impacts of Impostor Syndrome
Impostor Syndrome causes self-doubt, which manifest feelings such as the below:
“You don’t know what you’re doing.” “Any moment someone will call you out.” “What made you think you could even attempt this?”
These thoughts lead to feelings that cause the individual to believe he or she is unable to accomplish specific goals. One study found
that 60% of women who were considering starting a business did not because of “lack of confidence in their knowledge, skills, and abilities." Additionally, these self-doubting thoughts have also been attributed as a factor for why some women may even be less successful in their careers.
Examples of key ways to identify whether you are experiencing impostor syndrome:
- You are feeling like a fraud. Even though you have made it, and received the recognition for a job well done, you feel like it is just smoke and mirrors.
- You devalue your worth. Not realizing that you are worth more than you think.
- You undermine your experience or expertise. Questioning your qualifications, knowledge, and experience and not embracing the talents that have been developed.
The good news is that once these feelings of impostor syndrome are recognized, there are ways to overcome them.
Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
- Create a Brag Sheet. Women are more likely to downplay their achievements. Creating a brag sheet can help with feelings of inadequacy. List out your accomplishments and accolades. Seeing them on paper will strengthen your ability to recognize your achievements. This includes sharing your accomplishments with the world, i.e. LinkedIn.
- Positive Self-Talk. Change how you frame things. Take a moment to focus on what you excel at and highlighting those talents. This can help prevent negative self-talk.
- Own Your Accomplishments. Women tend to explain their successes away by ascribing them to things like “luck,” “hard work,” or “help from others.” Try to own the role you played in your success by forbidding yourself from falling back on excuses. Practice saying these words out loud: “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
- Visualize Your Success. Keep your eye on the outcome–completing the task or making the presentation; this will keep you focused and calm.
- Realize No One is Perfect. Stop focusing on perfection.
There is also good that comes with feeling like an impostor. It leads to more in-depth preparation, critical analysis, and delving deeper into the issues at hand. Feeling fraudulent is also a sign that you are being intellectually challenged. Next time you find yourself questioning your abilities, or not taking the credit due for your hard work and success, take a step back and know that YES, you are amazing and YES, you deserve the recognition.