That feeling that you are a fraud, that one day people will find out you have no idea what you are doing, it has a name…Impostor Syndrome. It can strike when you get that first real job, when you leave the hospital with your first child, or when you graduate from college. You feel like you are not qualified or don’t deserve your accomplishments. It is estimated that at least 70 percent of successful people have experienced Impostor Syndrome.[i] So, don’t worry. If you are afraid someone will find out that you are an impostor, they are probably too busy worrying about their own fraud to care about yours.
The filp-side of Impostor Syndrome is Entitlement. The sense that one deserves more than others. That phenomenon that we see in so many kids these days. While most of us would rather be surrounded by impostors than entitled people, there are a few things we can do to slightly tip the scale away from Impostor Syndrome:
- Let go of Perfectionism. A drive for perfectionism is a classic symptom of Impostor Syndrome. The more of a perfectionist you are, the more likely you are to fear being found out as an impostor. This is especially true for those who try to promote themselves as being perfect and/or those who avoid behavioral displays of imperfection. By lowering your expectations to a realistic level, the pressure of trying to be perfect is reduced.[ii] No one is perfect, so strive for realistic, achievable goals.
- Stop Self-handicapping. Another behavior related to impostor syndrome is self-handicapping. Behavioral self-handicapping occurs when people purposefully set themselves up for failure, such as by not practicing or reducing effort.[iii] This is seen as a way to preserve self-esteem…you can’t fail if you aren’t trying, right? Sometimes just being aware that you are self-handicapping is enough to stop the cycle. Preparation and effort are keys to overcoming Impostor Syndrome.
- Focus on Your Strengths. Everyone has a unique set of strengths and accomplishments that makes them uniquely qualified for different tasks and jobs. Realize that you worked hard to get where you are and you possess qualities that you need to succeed. Make a list of your accomplishments, strengths and abilities and look at it often.
- Ask for feedback. Regular feedback on performance (assuming it is at least partially positive) has been shown to reduce feelings of being an impostor. Be quick to give feedback when someone does a good job and don’t be afraid to ask for a review of your own work. Feedback or assessments can enhance feelings of confidence and self- efficacy. [iv] When you receive positive feedback, accept it and add it to your list of strengths and accomplishments.
- Change your View of Failure. Fear of failure can be a cause of anxiety and often goes hand in hand with Impostor Syndrome. Small “failures” usually are not failures at all; but rather, they are opportunities to improve and learn. “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis
- Help Another Impostor. Instead of focusing on yourself, shift the focus to those around you. There is a good chance you are surrounded by people who feel like impostors. Try reassuring the new person that they are doing a good job or talking with someone about their accomplishments… and don’t underestimate the value of a good compliment.
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