“People think that I am better than I am but one day, they will find out that I am not good enough and that I have been deceiving them all this time. My promotion was just good luck, anyone could have passed the interview …”
Do you experience these kinds of thoughts? Then you may be experiencing what is known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, a phenomenon first discovered in the 1970’s by two female clinical psychologists: Dr Pauline R. Clance and Dr Suzanne A. Imes. Researchers believe that up to 70% of us will have suffered with it at some point in our lives.
It is known as “The Plague For Successful People” because ironically, it is typically experienced by high-achieving individuals. If you are in the grasps of Imposter Syndrome, then you probably put your successes down to sheer luck, good timing or other external circumstances. You likely work incredibly hard because you want to avoid people ‘discovering’ that you are a fraud who does not deserve the success you have had. However, you will also hold yourself back; never asking for a raise or a promotion.
Even celebrity icons discount their successes. Meryl Streep has had more Academy Award nominations than any other actress but she has still been quoted saying, “’You think, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”
Similarly, Harry Potter actress, Emma Watson has said “When I was younger, I just did it. I just acted. It was just there. So now when I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an impostor. It was just something I did.”
The problem with Imposter Syndrome is that it is part of a vicious cycle. You push yourself harder to avoid others discovering your inadequacy but the hard work leads to more success, which means your deceit now feels more serious.
So what can you do to accept that actually you are successful and talented?
You can start by admitting to others that you feel like a fraud. You can bet that when you reveal your ‘secret’, many other women (and men) will raise their hands and admit to feeling the same.
The next step is accepting the difference between giving your best and being better than everyone else you know. Set the bar to a realistic level so you are not forever striving for an unknown and unachievable goal. You do not have to achieve perfection to be valued by your company, friends and family. I am sure that you take responsibility for your failures (probably too much) but you should also take responsibility for your achievements.
I want you to start treating yourself how you would treat your best friend – with kindness and compassion. Try writing a list of your achievements over the last 10 years, as if you were talking to a friend. Think about the strengths, skills and qualities that you used to make those achievements happen. Stick your list up on your mirror and read it every day and update it regularly. It will help you notice how capable you are!