What Is Imposter Syndrome and Ways To Overcome it

Have you ever felt that you don't deserve your achievements? Or that any form of personal and professional positive outcome in your life was based on luck rather than on hard-worked success? Do you struggle to accept appraisal of others and feel fake when they compliment you? Well, this struggle is real, and you are not alone with that.


Even after graduating as Master of Arts at my desired University in London, getting a grant during my bachelor studies, achieving the first work goals I've set for myself or working on international projects with people from around the world, it was difficult for me to simply celebrate accomplishments and foremost to accept tribute for them.


By the time any form of milestone was achieved, my mind was already wandering off to something which could have been done better or the next possible step. And it wasn't just me dealing with these feelings, as they are generally known as the psychological phenomenon called 'Imposter Syndrome'.



What is Imposter Syndrome?


In 1978 the psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the "Imposter Syndrome". It states the universal feeling of not deserving success in life based on a lack of confidence, perfectionism and the fear of failure. Both men and women suffer from this syndrome, but women experience it more intensely. A study shows how men apply for jobs even while possessing 60% of the desired qualification and women on the other side only apply when at least 100% of the asked qualifications can be delivered.


More than 70% in society, especially highly qualified and ambitious people, feel that they are faking their abilities, stated in a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science in 2011. Perhaps you know think: Am I dealing with Imposter Syndrome and if so, what can I do about it? Read more here:


Signs of Imposter Syndrome


Problems to accept appraisal

When others are complimenting and it's hard to believe that the success might relate to your skills rather than luck.


Described as perfectionist

Someone who is determined to check everything again and again. Looking for the smallest flaws and cannot stop until being 150% sure, and even then, still struggling to let it go.


You're an over-worker

The work is done, still you cannot stop and find something else to work on. This happens when people applaud to the idea of being busy as something positive and don't allow themselves to rest.


Cannot show confidence

A bit of self-doubt is among most people, but not being able to stand up for yourself, feeling inadequate and incompetent in whatever you do, may extend the common norm.



Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome


Own your strengths and achievements

You made the deal, great. You're a good speaker, amazing. Acknowledge your strengths and achievements, and stand up for them. When something positive happens then it was because of you and not a lucky coincidence.


Accept failures

Everyone makes a mistake, this does not make you a fraud. Even the best in the biz had some rough paths along the way. She/he was perhaps rejected, send the wrong data, addressed another person in an email - these things happen and it doesn't define your entire set of skills.


Stop comparing yourself

In times of Instagram, Facebook and co it makes it more difficult for us to not feeling pressured to compare our lives to those we observe on social media. That's why it is important to understand that those images we're seeing are created realities and not showing what is actually happening in other people's lives.


Don't wait for external validation

Take time and think about what YOU want to do in your next career step or if YOU are happy with the look of the outfit you're wearing. Every person will have another view on things and there will always be someone who isn't agreeing with you. But when you own your decision, you won't be looking for external validations anymore.


Strengthen your skills

If you're doing well at something, and not so well at something else, then don't push yourself in those skills which you desperately think you need to be capable of as well. What will then happen: you might feel frustrated by not reaching your desired outcome.


Here are two book recommendations:

Dr. Valerie Young "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It"


Sheryl Sandberg "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead"


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Text by Bernak Kharabi

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