Fake it until you make it. This is what Elizabeth Holmes attempted to accomplish but failed miserably. As a result of the fraudster, imposter syndrome has become a modern-day phenomenon. What exactly is it, and why is it imperative for today’s society to understand it?
Imposter syndrome, sometimes referred to as impostor phenomenon, occurs when an individual doubts their abilities, talents, or accomplishments. Additionally, the individual has anxiety and an internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. No matter what their skills or career choice may be, it has a higher tendency to affect successful women than unsuccessful men. Yet, in our modern-day society, it can affect both genders regardless of the role or desired industry.
Those who feel self-doubt even when they are regarded as highly successful have probably experienced imposter syndrome. It is not a mental disorder that can be diagnosed, but rather a term used in reference to your level of intelligence and achievement.
The History of Imposter Syndrome
The concept of imposter syndrome was introduced by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the late 1970s. As their study focused on highly successful women of the time, it was originally referred to as “the imposter phenomenon.” Despite having achieved outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, these women felt that they were not as intelligent as they appeared to be and fooled others into believing otherwise. These highly successful women were unable to internalize and accept their level of success. Their belief was that they became successful through luck rather than through intelligence, achievement, and hard work.
Those Who Suffer…Suffer in Silence
The majority of people who suffer from imposter syndrome do so in silence. Because it internalizes fear, anxiety, and even depression, those who suffer from it are often afraid to speak up about it. Why is this so? The reason for this is that they fear that they will be discovered and ultimately lose their jobs, or worse, their lifelong careers. There is, however, a way to overcome this. There are a variety of learning strategies available to assist those with imposter syndrome in working through this feeling and achieving their goals.
Despite the fact that Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes found this issue to be more relevant to women, this is no longer the case. Through time, a substantial amount of research has been conducted that suggests that men, too, may suffer from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is believed to result from growing up in a household in which there was a great deal of emphasis placed on achievement and a great deal of pressure to succeed.
The same is true in society. The pressure placed upon men and women to achieve and accomplish success is immense. The pressure persists, whether in personal or professional lives. When Imes conducted the experiment in the 1970s, she concurred with this statement. Over the past fifty years, little has changed.
Support Your Organization And Its Employees
Both men and women experience imposter syndrome in the workplace, so it is likely to be prevalent within your organization as well. In order to dissipate suffering completely, how can we support those who are suffering? The first step towards achieving this is to take the notion seriously. People may mention small portions of this concept or dance around it completely without acknowledging that they possess it, especially when it comes to communicating with others in their workplace. As an organization, it is essential to be aware of the symptoms and types of stress so that it can help guide employees in a positive direction.
10 Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
The symptoms of imposter syndrome may vary from individual to individual. It should be noted, however, that there are some consistent red flags that often appear. The following are ten consistent symptoms that appear in those who experience imposter syndrome:
- Feeling low levels of confidence
- Feeling like a fraud
- Feeling amplified anxiety
- Feeling guilt or fear when successful
- Feeling incompetent
- Feeling shame
- Fearful of being found out
- Fearful of praise and recognition
- Focused on past issues
- Focused on eluding fake confidence
5 Imposter Syndrome Types
Based on the characteristics of those who suffer from imposter syndrome, it can be divided into five main types.
Type 1: The Perfectionist
Imposter syndrome is primarily characterized by perfectionism. Perfectionists tend to set their goals extremely high and strive to achieve at least 99% of them. This is the most widely recognized type. Consequently, even the smallest mistake can be construed as an ultimate failure, which may lead them to doubt their abilities.
Type 2: The Natural Genius
There has never been a time in their life when they have not been at the top of their league. The road to success is relatively straightforward, but achieving success can be a challenge, especially when it comes to career advancement. A person of this type is not prepared for hard work or struggle.
Type 3: The Rugged Individualist
Typically, people of this type are more stubborn than others because they are unable to accept the idea of asking for help, especially in the workplace. As a result of receiving help, their skillset is invalidated, and they are perceived as “lacking” in some way.
Type 4: The Expert
A person of this type enjoys researching and gathering as much information as possible prior to starting a new project. This is the type of individual who is constantly seeking to improve their knowledge and skills. However, this can also prevent them from applying to jobs, especially if they cannot meet all the requirements.
Type 5: The Superhero
A person of this type is one who pushes themselves harder than anyone else. Their expectations of themselves are far greater than those of others. As a result, they feel an overwhelming need to succeed in all aspects of their lives, both personally and professionally.
Examples Of Imposter Syndrome
To gain a better understanding of this type of illness, it may be helpful to view it within the context of a work environment. The following are a few examples of imposter syndrome in action.
- A new formal title has been conferred upon you at work – Chief Marketing Officer. While you have been working hard at your job, you feel like a complete fraud when you are called by the title because you have not been able to achieve the full potential of the position.
- As a result of all your hard work, you are nominated for a local award, but when you are chosen to win, you fail to accept the award because you believe that your actions did not merit the recognition.
- You have recently been hired to work at a technology management firm, but you feel that you have only achieved the position by accident due to the fact that you lack all of the necessary qualifications to complete the job.
- As a result of everything else coming relatively easily to you in your professional career, you are having difficulty getting promoted at your current workplace, but you feel like an imposter who cannot comprehend your current job title or obtain a new position.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
As important as it is for employees to overcome imposter syndrome, organizations also play a role in ensuring that this occurs. An organization’s ability to build resilience to it requires a change of culture that can help boost equity within the organization. To have an equitable culture, all positions of leadership and management must not be held by strictly white males.
Leadership roles must be filled by individuals from underrepresented groups. Additionally, they should be promoted equally, regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity. The key to helping those affected overcome imposter syndrome is to encourage them to be themselves at work. As a means of helping people overcome this mental illness, consider the following strategies.
Address The Cognitive Distortions
Learning the facts associated with negative emotions is one of the ideal methods for overcoming imposter syndrome. A common perception is to take a step back and view the bigger picture. Look at what facts support the idea that you deserve to be in your current role. Obtaining a role within a major corporation can take years of higher education plus experience. The hard work, education, and experience will show that you deserve the accomplishment that you have achieved.
Be Strategic With Who And When You Share Your Feelings
The sharing of feelings associated with imposter syndrome can reduce loneliness while allowing others to share their feelings with you. When you express your feelings of imposter syndrome and the struggles associated with it, you may promote the syndrome even further, but by partnering with trusted individuals to share your feelings, you will be able to gain a much more accurate sense of what you have accomplished in comparison to what you believe you have achieved.
Enjoy Your Accomplishments Through Celebration
Individuals who suffer from imposter syndrome tend to gloss over their accomplishments and are unable to celebrate them. Whenever someone congratulates you on your level of success, you should take the time to consider how you respond. If you have achieved success, no matter how small or large it may be, give yourself a pat on the back. Reminders that are concrete are essential. To reaffirm success, any accomplishment should be displayed as a constant reminder.
Adjust The Standards For Success
A person experiencing imposter syndrome often suffers from perfectionism that has been instilled into him or her in some manner. It would be best to adjust this standard and to abandon the idea altogether. As a result, it will be easier for you to view and internalize your accomplishments. To cultivate this, it is important to focus on progress – no matter how big or small – rather than striving for perfection at all costs. By stepping away from your standards, you will be able to gain a better understanding of the smaller accomplishments rather than just the final outcome. In this manner, you will be able to explore, learn, and grow your career development.
Incorporate “Yes” Opportunities
It is not possible to accept every opportunity that is presented to you. This is especially true when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. People with imposter syndrome are all too familiar with turning down new opportunities because they are certain they will fail. When presented with a new opportunity, it is imperative to recognize if you have too much on your plate or if you are simply declining it based on a high probability of failure. New challenges can open up a variety of future opportunities. You should ignore your inner imposter when it comes to turning down these golden opportunities.
Embrace Imposter Syndrome, Gracefully
Irrespective of how long you have had it, it is nearly impossible to completely get rid of it. People such as Tom Hanks and Howard Schultz live with imposter syndrome on a daily basis, but the most important characteristic is that they embrace it gracefully. Accepting it for what it is, they work tirelessly to remove it from their daily lives. The process is not easy and will never be as simple as flipping a switch; however, it is manageable. To embrace it, it is important to acknowledge your achievements, regardless of their size. Be proud of your accomplishments and know that you have put a great deal of effort into them.
Although imposter syndrome was initially observed only in females, both genders are now affected by it in the modern workplace. A fear of being known as a fraud looms large in the minds of many employees and often goes unnoticed by others. The reason for this is that awareness of the issue is not more widespread. The recognition of signs, no matter how minor they appear, is a crucial step in assisting employees to excel in their career development rather than suffering in silence for fear of being exposed as underachievers.
No matter how diverse our workforce appears, let us celebrate our employees for who they are and appreciate their achievements.