The Importance Of Sharing Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

If you’ve ever felt like your successes are the result of luck or that you don’t deserve the merits you’ve received, you’re not alone. Many people describe feeling like imposters in their own lives, fearing that soon their peers will find out the “truth”that they’re not actually smart, attractive, talented or worthy of their successes.

These fears and self-doubts are some of the key symptoms of imposter syndrome, a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, Psychotherapy Theory, Research, and Practice,they used the term “imposter syndrome” to describe some of the successful, highly anxious female professionals attending Clance’s group-therapy sessions.

Imposters feel anxiety and doubt about themselves, no matter how many advanced degrees, awards or raises they’ve received. People suffering from imposter syndrome feel like they don’t belong and don’t deserve all they have achieved, despite the fact their success prove them to be fully competent individuals with strong abilities.

Even though the original paper referred only to women, further studies (including one by Clance) have shown that men experience imposter syndrome in equal numbers.

Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

Most people experience some anxiety in new situations. Imposers, however, have trouble putting those feelings into proper perspective. They attribute every success they have to dumb luck, while viewing their colleagues’ successes as indicators of their superior skill.

Those who suffer from imposter syndrome often set extremely high standards for themselves. And, if they ever do fail, they may take on behaviors such as perfectionism or procrastination. In general, “imposters” are terrified to turn in any big projects or work that will be reviewed for fear of being “discovered” as an imposter. A person with this syndrome may hold on to their work for long periods of time, even past deadlines.

“Imposters” also find it particularly difficult to go up for an evaluation, apply for a new job or ask for a promotion, since they secretly believe they aren’t actually qualified for such advancements.

Key to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

There are things you can do to help yourself or someone else get past these feelings of being an imposter. First, make an accurate and realistic assessment of your performance. Pay attention to high test scores, all accolades and all of the work you have done to get to where you are. Feeling incompetent and being incompetent are two very different things.

Because getting out of such a mindset by yourself can be difficult, anyone experiencing unfounded imposter-like feelings should consult a therapist. Going to therapy can help you identify and overcome your negative thought processes.

The Importance of Sharing

It’s impossible to know what people are thinking unless you ask them. Discovering that everyone around you may be just as mystified about how they got to where they are can be a huge relief.

Take a look at the people you admire or fear in your workplace. Do they share some of your same anxieties? You’ll never know unless you ask.

The importance of sharing and giving air to your fears cannot be underestimated. It allows you to confirm that you aren’t alone in your feelings. Other people likely have the exact same insecurities as you, and they’re coping with them.

Of course, it can be extremely nerve-wracking to actually approach someone in the workplace about these concerns. So, if that proves a bit too much, you can always share your fears within the more anonymous context of the Internet. Many blogs and other Web sites allow people to discuss their fears over feeling like an imposter.

The Importance of Sharing Your Fears

Surprisingly, coming clean about your own feelings of self-doubt and insecurity may inspire others to open up and approach you. It can also reveal an underlying problem, such as a difficult workplace situation or a manager who’s making several of you feel the same way.

Why is sharing your fears so important?

  • Even though you may feel alone in your doubts, by sharing and giving air to your fears, you’ll most likely discover several other people who feel exactly the same way.
  • Having a mentor, whether it be a professor or manager, can be a huge help and relief. This outside person may be able to help you put your feelings into perspective and offer advice on what to do.
  • If someone else is making you doubt yourself, talk to him in a respectful way. You may need to be assertive to get your needs met.

Most of all, sharing with others can help you believe in yourself. By speaking your truth, you can find the support you need to face your doubts and fears, helping you feel at peace with who you really are.