The workplace can be a hard enough place to navigate without your own self-doubt getting in the way. But that’s exactly the extra hurdle Imposter Syndrome throws at you.
“Imposter syndrome refers to the experience of feeling like someone who doesn’t deserve their success or position.” explains Executive Coach and Career Mentor Kate Richardson, “It’s when you believe that what you’ve achieved is down to luck, rather than your own talents and skills. Essentially you feel like a fraud and that you might be ‘found out’ at any moment.”
It’s not something that will only happen to people with other anxieties, either. In fact, it’s something that can affect anyone of any age and any gender.
“Research in the Journal of Behavioural Science suggests that 70% of people will experience it at some point in their life,” says Kate, “That said, it’s particularly common among high achievers.”
“Mike Cannon-Brookes stood on the Sydney TedX stage in 2017 and bravely admitted that he suffers from Imposter Syndrome and that most days he often feels he’s not quite sure what he’s doing. It’s a reminder that even people we consider wildly successful can experience self-doubt.”
While it’s definitely something that can happen in our personal lives, it’s very strongly associated with the workplace. Maybe you got a promotion and you’re wondering if you deserved it, or maybe you can’t help thinking that a particular client simply found you by luck. Whatever triggered the condition, how do these feelings of self-doubt manifest in a workplace situation?
“It can manifest in a range of ways at work, but one of the most common ways is perfectionism,” Kate suggests, “When perfection is your goal, it’s impossible to live up to your ideal.”
“Perfectionism can mean you do things like hanging onto a presentation or report until it’s perfect, robbing yourself of the chance to seek feedback which might actually help you get the result you want. Or it can stop you applying for a job because there’s one thing on the list of criteria you don’t meet – even though you actually meet 99% of the requirements.”
If you’re reading this article nodding along and recognising these feelings all too well – honey you are fabulous and you deserve to know it. But how do you stop the very common feelings of self-doubt from consuming you and affecting your performance? Is it something we can do on our own, or should we seek help?
“The best way to overcome this confidence issue is to take action. Confidence comes from taking one step, and another and another after that. We need to build our capacity to take those steps,” Kate recommends.
“In the case of imposter syndrome, a good first step is to simply become aware of our thought patterns and to put them in perspective. This is where mindfulness is really useful as we can become aware of our thoughts without latching onto them – mindfulness teaches us to play the role of observer. Then ideally, we can critically question our thinking and the assumptions we’re making.”
Keep in mind that Imposter Syndrome is very normal, common, and the vast majority of us will experience it from time to time. You are definitely not alone. However, Kate suggests that you may need to seek help if the feelings are getting a little out of control.
“If you feel concerned that your imposter syndrome might be manifesting in undue stress or anxiety, then you should seek help through an organisation like Beyond Blue or a professional counselling service.”