Is there something that you, Google team leader, and Albert Einstein have in common? There might be. The impostor syndrome is a tricky imp that tells us that we are frauds and do not deserve the success we have achieved. Today we will try to think about what it is all about and whether it can be turned to our advantage.
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon manifested in the fact that a person does not believe in their own achievements and capabilities, even if they are surrounded by evidence of their competences or success. To put it simply - when you are a super specialist, but you keep thinking that your knowledge is enough only to photocopy documents or make coffee.
"This success is the result of some accident, mistakes of people who evaluated me" – such thoughts appear in the heads of many talented and hard working people. They can't accept praise and compliments, they immediately belittle their achievements. Moreover, they worry whether they will be able to repeat their previous success.
The impostor syndrome affects everyone, regardless of nationality, education, origin or age. Students, celebrities, doctors, as well as Google tech leaders and even billionaires suffer from it alike.
PS. Despite the fact that the discussed phenomenon is called a syndrome, it is not perceived as a mental disorder. And, of course, it has nothing to do with actual cheating in the professional field, it only concerns psychological/mental experience.
Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women (Currency, 2011), also took a more practical look at this phenomenon and divided the beliefs and habitual behaviour of people affected by this syndrome into 5 types.
Perfectionists – they set too high goals for themselves, and when they do not achieve the goal, they have serious doubts about their abilities. Quality and flawless performance is the most important for them. Perfectionists set the bar very high for themselves, and when they fail to achieve their goal 100% in every aspect, they begin to doubt themselves.
Soloists – always try to do everything on their own. When they need support and help, when they ask for it, they feel as if they expose their incompetence and helplessness. This prevents them from using support.
Experts – they won't let go until they know everything about the subject. They will spend so much time collecting information that they will not be able to complete the entire project before the deadline. Experts fear – and rightly so, because it is impossible – that they will never know everything.
Supermen/Superwomen – they feel like a fraud among truly educated and competent colleagues. Thus they force themselves to work harder and harder, for example, staying overtime, even if they completed their duties on time. They feel stressed when not working. They run the most risk of professional burnout. Such people have ambitions to fulfil themselves 100% in all roles.
Geniuses – as children they succeeded effortlessly, as adults, they judge themselves by being successful at first attempt. If they are unable to do something quickly or fluently, they think it is due to incompetence. It is important for them that the tasks are carried out not only in the best and flawless way, but also easily and quickly.
So how can we deal with impostorism?
- Write down all your successes on a sheet of paper. Take your time! It is important that there are more than 10 examples.
- Ask yourself: Did I do it myself? Or is it just a coincidence?
- Note down even the smallest achievements. Do this every day and you will see that there will be quite a lot of them.
- At the end of the year, such a notebook will become a valuable instrument in the fight against lack of self-confidence!
- Don't be afraid to praise yourself! Next time you finish a project, celebrate it.
However, if you find it difficult to tame this "evil" at the beginning, it is worth accepting it with a smile.
- The impostor syndrome means great energy that helps you win ambitious projects! At this point, it is worth recalling the charismatic Steve Jobs and his Fake it till you make it strategy
- The syndrome motivates us to learn new things and improve our qualifications. Use it to your advantage!
- Next time you feel impostor syndrome towards yourself - sincerely congratulate yourself! At this point, you step out of your comfort zone and move forward
- Add a touch of humour. Imagine your inner impostor - perhaps it's the Wolf of Wall Street or the hero of Catch Me If You Can.
Remember - the impostor syndrome never appears where there is no success. Therefore, the sooner you realize this and leave this world of imaginary and false beliefs, the better. For you and your surroundings.