Imposter Syndrome

September 8, 2023

I only became aware of this term when my daughter spoke about her feelings at the first job she had after graduating. Although she had been offered an internship simply from meeting a business owner at an International Business Fair, she was doubting her accomplishments and not feeling that she was contributing to the company.

She was not able to recognise her own skills and abilities, especially in a very competitive industry, something which she still struggles with to this day, some eight years later.

Common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:

  1. Self-doubt: Individuals with imposter syndrome often doubt their abilities and competence in their chosen field or area of expertise.
  2. Perfectionism: They may set extremely high standards for themselves and feel inadequate when they don’t meet those standards.
  3. Overachievement: Some people with imposter syndrome may overwork or overachieve to compensate for their feelings of inadequacy.
  4. Fear of failure: There is a deep-seated fear of failing or making mistakes, and they may avoid taking risks to prevent potential failure.
  5. Discounting success: They tend to downplay their achievements, believing that they are not a true reflection of their abilities.
  6. Attribution to external factors: People with imposter syndrome often attribute their success to external factors such as luck, timing, or the help of others, rather than acknowledging their own skills and hard work.
  7. Negative self-talk: They engage in negative self-talk and have an internal dialogue that reinforces their feelings of inadequacy.
  8. Effect of Bad Management: whilst most of us can cope with negativity from our peers at work, having to work under a bad head of department can affect our self-belief, particularly if we are already not very confident.

Imposter syndrome can have a wide range of effects on someone’s mental health and well-being, leading to feelings of anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. It can also hinder career advancement and personal growth by causing individuals to shy away from opportunities and challenges.

It’s important to recognize that imposter syndrome is quite a common phenomenon; high profile individuals such as the actor Tom Hanks and model Bella Hadid have spoken about this.

Overcoming imposter syndrome often involves recognizing these negative thought patterns, seeking support from others, and developing self-confidence and self-compassion. It can be overcome, but will take time; when someone has been telling themselves for many years that they are a fraud for example, it will be a while before they can teach themselves a more positive mindset.

Therapy and counselling can also be helpful for those struggling with imposter syndrome.

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