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It’s Not You, It’s Impostor Syndrome

by Weronika Pukrop

Have you ever felt that you’re not doing well enough, even after receiving praise for your work? Have you ever thought that you get complimented just because people are polite, not because you actually deserve it? Well, we have news for you: it’s not because you aren’t good enough. It’s impostor syndrome.

Many of us (if you are a woman, then most of us) suffer from it, yet it’s still not as recognized as it should be. Most people think that their inner-feeling of self-doubt and their lack of confidence is caused by an actual lack of talent or abilities, which is usually not necessarily the case – most likely it’s impostor syndrome. According to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, over 70% of people experience it at some point in their lives. Even though the phenomenon has been around probably as long as humans have been walking the Earth, it’s relatively new in our dictionary. The firsts to name it were psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who in 1978 realized that maybe people don’t think they are useless because they really are – maybe there is something holding them back. 

So, what exactly is impostor syndrome? It’s a phenomenon which describes the feeling of failure and fraud even when being evidently successful. The feeling that one’s achievements are not the result of hard work and talent but luck and a mistake. It very often stops you from ever starting the project or taking a further step in your career, as you already assume you won’t succeed. Simply: it’s an inability to recognize your own success. 

Both men and women suffer from impostor syndrome; however, studies conducted by professors from Georgia State University showed that it mainly affects females. Gender normative roles that are conditioned in stereotypical societies lead women to doubt their worth and their abilities and develop imposter syndrome, which then leads to less women in top roles and positions. No surprise, then, that women’s perception of themselves is rather negative.

Professors from Columbia Business School have also conducted a similar study which showed – you guessed it – that women not only undermine their abilities, but, after time, when asked about their past results, diminish their achievements. Moreover, those professors also argue that men have a natural sense of overconfidence, unlike women. The word ‘natural’ is a bit of a stretch here though; this is not defined by biology but rather by years of male domination in society and being perceived as the “dominant” gender. Rather than physiological, it’s a psychological matter. 

According to the journalist Yomi Adegoke, impostor syndrome is “a response to a world that doesn’t believe in women.” The journalist also argues that, because of the constant pressure and judgement which women receive from society, it is no wonder that their self-confidence is suffering.

Is there hope? Yes and no. Yes, because there are ways to fight it. No, because it’s not going away quickly. It’s not a disease that you can cure. It’s not going to vanish overnight leaving us bursting with confidence and taking accountability for our accomplishments. However, it doesn’t mean you should give up and feel doomed forever – there are things you can do! 

Acceptance

First of all, you have to find a way to accept it, you need to be aware of it. Recognizing impostor syndrome in yourself is the first step to fight it. 

Connect

Talk to others. You might think that everyone around you is perfectly happy and are achieving their goals; however, impostor syndrome is far more common than we realize. You are very likely to find someone in your circle who feels the same and sharing is caring!

Talk to yourself

Apart from talking to other people and sharing your experiences, it’s also important to talk to…yourself. Ideally in 3rd person. Before you reject the idea, have a little try! Scientists have proven that referring to and giving yourself a pep-talk in 3rd person not only helps you to believe in what you are saying more, but it also boosts your confidence significantly. 

Ambition

There’s a positive side to impostor syndrome. If you are experiencing it, it means you are doing something right. Why? Studies show that the phenomenon usually hits the most ambitious, high-achieving women. 

Be realistic

Believe in your accomplishments. Note down everything you have done so far, all of your successes, achievements, and strengths. Visualize them to really see what you are capable of. Your new mantra: I CAN DO IT.

Have you ever experienced impostor syndrome? Let us know in our poll on Instagram and Twitter!

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