If you’re feeling that you’re not good enough to do your job, and you’re going to be caught out soon, you’re not alone

Although we are pushing against that glass ceiling, did you know that 70% of all people will suffer from Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lifetime – and that it’s mostly women?

Have you ever found yourself thinking:

  • “I have no idea what I am doing.”
  • “I am a huge failure.”
  • “I shouldn’t even apply for that job, I will never get it.”
  • “I’m sure people will soon find out that I am a fraud.”

If yes, rest assured you are not alone in having thoughts like these. While self-doubt in your abilities, especially at work, from time to time is normal, having such thoughts and feeling like a fraud continuously might mean that you suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

“Those suffering from Impostor Syndrome will often feel like they don’t deserve their achievements or success, that it’s only because of luck and not because they are competent or skilled, and at worst feel like complete frauds who are in danger of being exposed at any minute.

“It causes stress, anxiety, exhaustion and can lead to depression, and some sufferers will frequently avoid attempting new challenges because of the severe fear of failure”, says Despina Senatore, Founder of Purposeful Woman, a consultancy aimed at assisting women find their true potential in life.

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Negative self-talk, dwelling on past mistakes, fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, terror of being ‘found out’, perfectionism, procrastination and over-preparing are all signs and symptoms of Imposter Syndrome.

If unaddressed, it can have serious negative impact on your health (mental and physical), well-being, relationships, and career prospects

Truth is, although sufferers often feel like they are alone in this, 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lifetime according to ‘The Impostor Phenomenon’, International Journal of Behavioral Science, Vol 6. Imposter Syndrome is rooted and triggered during various life-stages and develops over time.

The first seeds are normally planted during children’s formative years when they receive messages (familial, cultural or societal) about what is expected of them

This affects women more than men as the messages girls receive almost never include taking risks, being leaders, outspoken and achieving big things in life.

Additional triggers include being first generation graduates or professionals as well as representing specific social groups.

The self-doubt creeps in when these trailblazers are the first and feel like they need to strive for constant perfection to avoid disappointment and to prove that they belong.

Equally, working in toxic environments that consistently undermine certain individuals’ opinions, capabilities and success can trigger feelings of inadequacy and will have them second guessing themselves.

A lot of research on impostor syndrome suggests that women are more affected than men predominantly because they are raised and socialised to believe that they aren’t capable of the same successes as men.

“The world view is shifting, and women find themselves in more leadership positions than ever before,” says Senatore. “With it comes the ever-present self-doubt asking whether we are there on merit or because of luck or merely as tokens to have more women in certain positions.”

To demonstrate this, a study by learning and development training provider The Hub Events in the UK found that 90% of women in the UK feel inadequate at work and 73% feel like they don’t deserve their success.

It’s important to understand that feeling like an impostor will mostly be triggered by situations that push you out of our comfort zone

It’s not an ever-present feeling, but it can come and go throughout your career or life depending on the situation and understanding what the triggers are for you is the first step to managing impostor syndrome.

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Here are a few steps you can take to manage the feelings when they arise:

• Acknowledge and accept it. At the same time remember that you are not alone.
• Focus on facts, not feelings. Silence your inner critic and choose to focus on the facts of the situation, instead of how you are feeling about yourself in it.
• List your achievements. Keep a list of your accomplishments and positive feedback at hand to read when you are feeling low.
• Accept compliments. Instead of deflecting praise, learn to accept it with a simple ‘thank you’.
• Alter your mindset. Adapt a growth mindset, instead of a fixed one. Replace ‘I can’t do that’ with ‘I can’t do that yet’. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill instead of shying away from it because of fear of failure.
• Ask for help. Share your feelings with trusted colleagues or friends. Sometimes this can put the situation in perspective.

If left unmanaged, Imposter Syndrome can prevent you from living the life you deserve and the career progression you aspire to. Instead of letting it run your life, acknowledge it, face it head on and put in the work to manage it.