Fake it ‘till you make it. How often do you feel like this? It isn’t exactly low self-esteem, you know that you can do the work and there is a reason that you got to where you are today. But there’s still this overriding feeling that much of it was because of luck, or your connections, or that someone would be quite right to one day say that you might not be cut out for the role after all.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
When you constantly doubt yourself, your skills, and your achievements. When you persistently feel that one day you will be exposed as completely faking everything you’ve accomplished and everyone will know you never earned or deserved them. Sounds incredibly harsh to put into writing, but the fact is that 20% of high achievers feel this way. Nobel Laureate Steven Chu battles with it. David Bowie openly doubted his ability, stating that he hid behind obsessive work ethic. Actor Tom Hanks even discussed it in an interview: “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’”
The 5 Different Types
A perfectionist is someone that may have difficulty delegating tasks to others, in case they don’t do it to her standard. Her bar is set very high, and even when she does a great job she feels like she’s failed to do it right. Achievements that others would congratulate her on or complement are waved away as unfounded or not real because she didn’t quite hit the mark she wanted. Any minor mistakes are evidence that she just isn’t cut out for the job.
Convinced that they don’t measure up to their colleagues, who are the real-deal, the superperson works twice as hard. They hide their insecurity by piling on the responsibility and work. Relaxation is not on the agenda of the superperson, down time is seen as evidence that they really shouldn’t have their job title because they are lazy or can’t keep up. Hobbies, relationships, and other passions fall by the wayside as they work longer hours and take on more duties in an effort to garner validation for their work.
A contrast to superperson, who believes effort proves their worth, the natural genius believes he should get everything right with ease on the first try. He wants things to go perfectly to his high standard without seeming to put much effort into it. When things don’t go smoothly he feels embarrassed quickly. After being called “the smart one,” having top marks in school, and excelling at everything he turned his hand to, the natural genius avoids any challenge where he might make a mistake to mar his perfect record. For example, he has sworn off public speaking of any kind: he feels he won’t be able to cope with the shame of flubbing his words in front others.
The soloist doesn’t need anyone else. He is a mountain, an enigma, capable of anything: asking for help from others would be evidence to the contrary. His effectiveness is tied up in completing goals on his own with no help at all. Even when asking for help, he does so by impressing the big picture need for the task to be done rather than the personal reasons he needs the help. Any achievement that depended on help from others is not a real achievement in his mind.
The expert fears most being labelled as inexperienced or unknowledgeable. She will not submit her CV for a job listing unless she meets every single education requirement, she thinks she needs every certification or training in order to be effective, she hates being called the expert because she never thinks she knows enough to deserve that title. The endless search for ‘enough knowledge’ leads to procrastination of carrying out the tasks she ‘needs’ the knowledge for.
The Common Theme
Some people might relate to more than one of these categories. The common theme here is that each of these types of people feel that their perceived misgivings will be exposed at any time. The only difference is where their supposed weakness is. People with imposter syndrome have difficulty accepting full responsibility for their achievements, chalking it up to an external factor, like luck, charm, being in the right place at the right time, having the right connections, or a series of other, almost superstitious, actions. This is a self-perpetuating cycle: if every congratulations can be accredited to the anxiety, ridiculous hours, and stressfully high standard placed on the project in the first place then these destructive habits are validated as a part of success and should be repeated.
Overcoming your feelings of fraud
The key to overcoming feeling like a fraud is to reframe the way achievements are seen. Compliments and congratulations need to be accepted without discounting or accrediting to an outside source, like luck. It’s difficult to do sometimes! To change some of the superstitious thinking, small changes need to be added slowly. Instead of spending 10 hours on an assignment, limit yourself to 8. Reframe what is “good enough” and realise that no one is perfect. Some people may do better at certain tasks but nothing comes from comparing or competing. Contentment and validation come from setting achievable goals for yourself and being kind to yourself if you don’t make your mark. Remembering the things you can do well helps when a project doesn’t quite go your way.
Imposter syndrome can be crippling for self-confidence, progressing to a better job position, and maintaining relationships with others. Changing the way you frame your life events can be difficult and sometimes having someone to talk to about it can be essential for making changes that last. Therapy for imposter syndrome typically has an exceptionally good outcome. A one to one session with Maple Leaf Therapy focuses on identifying and reaching goals toward feeling content and confident. Clients come away from therapy with the tools to maintain a balanced self-confidence.
If you have any questions about imposter syndrome or want more information on therapy, reach out for a free consultation. I’m available over the phone and email: Lauren@MapleLeafTherapy.com