What Is "Imposter Syndrome" And What Can I Do About It?

Posted 6 years ago •

In recruitment, we hear the phrase ‘Imposter Syndrome’ from time to time, particularly when a candidate starts a new job – but what is it and how can it affect our day-to-day working lives?

Imposter syndrome, or ‘fraud syndrome’, was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R.Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. It describes an individual’s inability to appreciate their own accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Any proof of success is dismissed as luck, good timing or a result of deceiving other people.

In the working world, these feelings may come about after starting a new job, getting a promotion or being commended for your hard work. It can have a harmful effect on your confidence and your ability to feel the benefit of your efforts; which is essential to your long term happiness and success!  

You may have experienced imposter syndrome if you’ve found yourself thinking the following things after a recent achievement: 

  • “I just got lucky’”
  • “I’m going to get found out for being a fake”
  • “I only got achieved this because of someone/something”
  • “I don’t deserve this praise”
  • “This isn’t a real achievement”
  • “It would be better if I had achieved more than this”

Unless you’re genuinely trying to sell the world snake oil, these excuses are usually unjust. Try some of these suggestions to combat the issue:

Look at the facts

Luckily, your achievements at work can usually be measured in simple facts. Try listing the facts behind your success – what was achieved because of it? That way, despite your personal opinion, your achievements are concrete evidence to argue against your doubts.

Be kind to yourself

Consistently putting yourself down can have a domino effect on your self-esteem. You may start to glaze over the high points of an achievement to see the mistakes you made. Reward yourself for these wins – you deserve it. 

Stop comparing yourself

The person on more money or the big boss in the office do not necessarily have their own world in order. Anyone who tells you they know everything is lying to you. Realise that much like you, everyone is fighting their own battle for success and are suffering from their own confidence issues.

Quit the excuses

It may be hard but try to catch yourself when you make an excuse or apologise. If it helps, make a note each time it happens. If you are unsure what to say to someone, say thank you.

Realise that nobody wins

When you hold back from giving yourself credit, nobody wins. You’re denying yourself the happiness you deserve which in turn can affect the people around you. Try to remember this if you are the type to wear your heart on your sleeve.

Fake it ‘til you make it

What’s the difference between telling yourself you can do it and pretending to tell yourself you can do it? Not much. Much like a placebo, acting like the confident person you want to be can sometimes have the same effect on your attitude.

Actions speak louder than words

If all else fails, take action. Imposter syndrome is something that lives in your mind which is quietened when you’re working hard.

Producing further good work proves you aren’t a fraud at what you do. So shut off that over-worked head of yours and get on with the job.

Seek help if it's needed

While all of these suggestions are meant to assist, sometimes you do need help on a professional level. If your self-esteem is more than just a few doubts of work, get clued up on what help is out there for you. The charity Mind have broken down the different types of mental health issues you may face on their website.

In need of further advice? Our career guidance section can help you with your job search and issues in your daily work life!

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