Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve to be in the job or position you’re in? How often do you worry you’re a fraud, and that it’s only a matter of time until you get found out?
The good news is that despite your self-doubt, it’s pretty revealing of your ability. Imposter Syndrome means you’re far from a fraud, but without acknowledging and accepting your ‘impostorism,’ your self-deprecating behaviour and disbelief in your abilities might lead people to believe you’re faking it. It’s this reason Lizzi Hart of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau encourages you to embrace your imposter syndrome, and use it to your advantage.
What is it?
Imposter Syndrome is a feeling that people who have succeeded at something experience, believing that it was just luck or chance that lead to their success, not their abilities. It is yet another version of the self-deprecating plague that many intelligent people struggle with.
The feeling is becoming far more prevalent in society, especially amongst the younger workers now entering the workforce. Think about the effect that social media has had on younger generations — its basic function is to connect people, but instead, leads to the comparison of yourself versus others’ social media personas. You compare the finished product (i.e. someone’s success that you deem better than yours) against your entire self; your thoughts, your failures, your criticisms, your emotions.
It might help to understand the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is often cited as the ‘opposite’ of Imposter Syndrome. In its simplest form, it is the idea that those who lack intelligence, lack the ability to acknowledge this lack of intelligence… or they are too dumb to realise they’re dumb. Instead, Dunning-Kruger subjects believe they are very intelligent, and tend to over-inflate their abilities because they can’t recognise their incompetence in comparison to others. The most appropriate and relevant example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is President Donald Trump. “People don’t know what they don’t know,” David Dunning explains.
If you’re actually able to think of yourself as an imposter, you are plenty intelligent enough. You’re not like Trump, so you’re OK.
It’s often women and women in academia who suffer from Imposter Syndrome, but it is becoming more prominent in everyday culture, especially amongst graduates who feel like they have been thrown in at the deep end after graduation. With a lack of confidence in your abilities, you can lead others to believe that you can’t do something (when you obviously can!), which is yet another vicious cycle to break.
Amy Cuddy – author, social psychologist and TED talker – talks about how her imposter syndrome was at its worst in grad school, and it took one of her students years later threatening to quit to make her realise that neither of them were imposters. Watch her TED talk on how body language shapes who you are for more tips on how to “fake it” if you can’t get past your imposter ‘plague’ just yet.
Reasons to embrace it
Now, as an ‘imposter,’ you probably work a lot harder than you would if you felt more comfortable in your job. You feel more need to prove yourself (even though you already have), spending less time celebrating your achievements, and more time getting stuff done. Your work ethic might be unconventional, but it clearly works in your favour. “Imposter Syndrome can actually help fuel your ambitions and dreams while at the same time keeping you humble” explains Kartik Perisetla, via Quora.
Furthermore, it’s likely that you’re pretty damn good at what you do already. You’re not big-headed; you’re self-critical and always trying to push yourself to do more. But don’t suffer alone. Speak to others in a similar situation, either in person or online, in order to realise you’re not struggling by yourself.
So to all those who identify with imposter syndrome, think about what and/or who is making you feel like you’re not good enough. If there is something tangible that you can do to reduce your chronic self-doubt, then do it!
Remember: You are good enough, you are worthy, and you deserve to feel like you are.
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