Imposter Syndrome: What is it and How is it Holding You Back?
We’ve all had those moments where we’ve accidentally ended up somewhere we weren’t supposed to be. For some of us, it’s been wandering into the restaurant kitchens while looking for the loos. For others, it’s been sampling the ‘free’ nibbles in a hotel lobby, before realising they’ve been set up for a conference. It happens, and it’s normal. What isn’t normal is when this ‘I’m not supposed to be here’ feeling extends into day-to-day life. It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s very real.
I Don’t Belong Here
Imposter Syndrome is a strange psychological phenomenon that means the brain struggles to connect achievement and progress with reward and recognition. It’s easier to explain if we look at how Imposter Syndrome would manifest itself in a physical way.
You may take a long walk and not know why your leg muscles hurt… even though you’re fully aware that you’ve been hiking for miles. Or you may bang your head, but not understand why you’ve got a headache… even though you remember hurting yourself. But Imposter Syndrome doesn’t manifest physically, it manifests emotionally, and for many it means that they don’t feel like they deserve their accomplishments.
For those who suffer with Imposter Syndrome, every day can feel like walking into the wrong room. They feel like they don’t belong, and this can create major obstacles when it comes to career progression and finding the confidence to take the next step.
A Major Career Barrier
People with Imposter Syndrome rarely put themselves out there for career progression opportunities, even if they possess the necessary skills and experience to succeed. In fact, they may well be the perfect person for that role as those who have Imposter Syndrome regularly drive themselves to work harder or learn more to be an expert.
Having coached people presenting with Imposter Syndrome, I believe there are 5 big ways that this curious condition is holding people back from achieving their goals:
1. They set unreasonable goals that they can never achieve to prove a point to themselves that they are incapable.
2. They’re tiring themselves out working overtime to try and ‘measure up’ to colleagues and peers.
3. They downplay their own abilities while placing value in the abilities of others over and above themselves.
4. They refuse assistance and never ask for help to try and keep the illusion alive as they want to be perfect.
5. They don’t see the point in learning unless they can ‘get it’ first time around.
Treating Imposter Syndrome
Dr. Google suggests all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to manage Imposter Syndrome. But there’s only one method that really gets to the core of the problem.
It’s important to remember that it really doesn’t matter WHY Imposter Syndrome happens. In fact, it probably develops from different causes in every person. What’s more important is to look at what happens during Imposter Syndrome, and this is the same in everyone: a drop in confidence. People with Imposter Syndrome feel like they don’t belong because they don’t have that belief in themselves that they’ve earned the right to be there. I say that the most effective treatment for Imposter Syndrome is confidence training, rebuilding that belief you belong, you matter, and you’re YOU.