If you have ever thought, “I’m not good enough” or “One day they will realize I don’t belong” in the workplace, then know you’re not alone in thinking this way. This feeling is what psychologists call imposter phenomenon. Also known as imposter syndrome, it is a feeling that affects men and women who are in many different positions within society.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
An inflated sense of self-doubt characterizes the psychological phenomenon. The result can be an unrealistic perception of your own accomplishments and competencies.
While the perception is that ambitious women are most likely to get imposter syndrome, research published in The Journal of Behavioral Science (2011) suggests that it affects both men and women. However, discussions of research are a slippery slope as the feeling of incompetency is one that many people keep private rather than sharing with others.
The Pressure to Accomplish
As for what causes imposter syndrome, it may stem from feeling the pressure to accomplish, particularly if you grew up in a family that put a high value on achievements. With the emphasis on achieving, you may discount your own worth if you fall short rather than succeed.
Those who are starting something new professionally, such as a job or a project, could experience impostor syndrome. While most people doubt themselves when starting something brand new, an imposter feels an overwhelming sense of fear that they don’t have what it takes to be successful.
Rather than asking for help, this person is more likely to assume that they must do everything perfectly, right down to the smallest detail, and, thus, spend more time on it than is needed. The fear in the back of the mind is that they will not meet the top standard that is expected of them. Alternatively, the imposter may react to a new task by procrastinating. The fear that they will not measure up takes over, and they feel overwhelmed.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Talking about how you feel about yourself isn’t easy for a lot of people, but having the courage to be vulnerable and open up to someone you trust can be helpful. Simply voicing your imposter feelings can release stress and take a burden off your shoulders.
Furthermore, the conversation can help you get another perspective. After listening to you, the other person may point out that your fears are irrational.
They can also support you in combating your perfectionist tendencies. For example, perhaps they could call you after five hours of working on a set task to remind you to stop, so you don’t take the usual seven hours doing it.
Finally, overcoming feeling like an impostor or feeling shame involves letting go of the need to be perfect. No one is perfect, even if they seem that way.
Trying to live up to the highest of standards is emotionally crippling and mentally exhausting. Instead, look at the hard work you put into a project and allow yourself to feel pride for it.
Feel good about what you do well. Putting the focus on the positive can go far toward maintaining a healthy sense of self.