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  • Writer's pictureAnneka Barrett

Imposter Syndrome what does it look. like and how to fight it!

Do you ever get into work and think, ‘they are going to know I’m faking it and fire me any second?’, or perhaps you walk into class and think, ‘all these people are smarter than me, I’m here by mistake.’ These are two classic thoughts that someone with Imposter Syndrome might say to themselves time and time again. The language might be different but the message is always the same; you don’t deserve what you have. Today we are going to explore what Imposter Syndrome is and how it affects your day to day life.

Much like the term anxiety, the term Imposter Syndrome has only been around since the 1970’s. Which is impressive when you think about how many great works of literature include those fighting it and overcoming it. Think of any Jane Austen novel. At its core Imposter Syndrome is a pattern of thinking where you doubt your worth. This could be through your skills, your accomplishments or your intellect. You don’t feel worthy of the life you have.

Those with Imposter Syndrome often put their success down to luck, or being in the right place and the right time. They disregard their experience, their achievements or hard work because they carry a core belief that somehow they don’t deserve what they have. Often those with Imposter Syndrome keep it well hidden, common traits include self-efficiency, perfectionism and neurotic tendencies. These traits can make it hard to get out of your head, seek help and accept a change in perspective.

Imposter Syndrome is something anyone can suffer from. There have been more studies carried out on women than men, but that is simply where the research has been done to date, anyone can feel like an imposter in their world.

Living with Imposter Syndrome can be exhausting. If you have it, you’ll know what I mean. You are perpetually looking for the next goal, knowing the last one wasn’t enough. You live in fear someone will notice you aren't good enough at your job or to be on your course at university. You are perpetually trying to prove your worth, yet never allowing yourself to do so.

Those with Imposter Syndrome often suffer from anxiety, they tend to have low levels of self esteem, and depression. This is hardly surprising if you perpetually think you are wrong.

Dr Pauline Clance, one of the first researchers in this field spoke of Imposter Syndrome having six dimensions which are listed below. See if you notice yourself in any of these:

  • The impostor cycle

    • As soon as you get a task/ assignment you immediately feel your anxiety levels rise as you fear you won’t be able to do it.

  • The need to be special or the best

    • Either you are unique or the best at something or your efforts are worthless.

  • Characteristics of superman/superwoman

    • You have to be superhuman, going above and beyond whatever everyone else is doing in order to be worthy.

  • Fear of failure

    • Failure is crushing, there is pain in failing for you.

  • Denial of ability and discounting praise

    • If someone praises you it’s because they don’t know the whole story, they don’t know you don’t deserve it.

  • Feeling fear and guilt about success

    • You are stuck between desperately wanting to succeed but at the same time not thinking you deserve it because you are not worthy of your success.

Did you see yourself in any of those? I know I did. We all have a little Imposter Syndrome in us. The issues begin to arise when we allow the ‘Imposter’ a seat at the table when it comes to our decision making and choices.

Imposter Syndrome, like most mental health challenges, is not terminal. We have the ability to take steps to overcome this and to allow ourselves to find new ways of thinking about ourselves and our lives.

Here are six ways to start tackling your Imposter Syndrome.

  • Belong in your ‘Space’

    • Make a list of all your achievements/ accolades which have got you to where you are now. Remind yourself that you are worthy of what you have.

  • Do not compare yourself to others

    • “Comparison is the death of joy.”, Mark Twain. Mr Twain says it better than I ever could. Others journeys are not yours, you might as well be comparing an elephant to a banana. It’s both pointless and unhelpful.

  • Reward yourself.

    • Reward yourself when you achieve something, no matter how small the success. Acknowledge it, give yourself permission to be proud of you.

  • Give yourself the praise you didn’t receive as a child

    • Often we are searching for something we didn’t get as a child, you need to give it to yourself. Remind yourself how clever you are and how proud you are of yourself. As a side note, say this to your children every opportunity you get, these messages sink in early!

  • Allow yourself permission to fail

    • Understanding and experiencing failure makes it a safe thing to do, especially if you are scared of failure.

  • Talk to someone who can be your cheerleader.

    • This could be therapy, it could be a friend, mentor, tutor or work coach. Someone who can hold up a true mirror for you when you can’t see that truth yourself.

Imposter Syndrome is often deep-rooted in your beliefs, so be gentle with yourself as you unpick this one. It can take time, effort and hard work to get to the root of why you feel the way you do. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Take inspiration from what Glennon Doyle says in ‘Untamed’

‘We can do hard things’.

Remember whatever you are going through you aren’t alone.

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