Have you ever felt like a fraud? Do you tend to write your achievements off as flukes rather than give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished? When you receive a compliment, do you imagine that you’ve tricked someone rather than truly impressed them?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you might be suffering from a case of imposter syndrome. Don’t worry; it’s a surprisingly common affliction. However, you’ll need to overcome this issue (or at least learn to manage it) if you want to fulfill your full potential.
Read on to learn more about your inner negative voice, how it’s sabotaging your success, and the steps you can take to limit its influence on your life!
What is imposter syndrome, and who suffers from it?
Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe feelings of inadequacy and inferiority that aren’t rooted in reality.
When someone is awarded a promotion, for example, you might expect them to feel proud of their work and grateful for the recognition. Someone who suffers from imposter syndrome will instead struggle to understand why they’ve been selected, looking for any possible explanation beyond the obvious: that they deserve it!
This is the difficult thing about imposter syndrome: it can be hard to shake feelings of self-doubt, regardless of how much evidence exists to contradict these negative assumptions.
In other words, you could be told a million times that you’re excellent at your job—but if you suffer from imposter syndrome, you’ll probably still feel like you’re under-performing.
Imposter syndrome is often experienced by those you’d least expect it to affect. Universally beloved actor Tom Hanks has admitted to suffering from it, as has COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg.
This just goes to show that imposter syndrome isn’t always obvious to outsiders, and it can affect even the most objectively successful people in society.
It isn’t just an affliction of the elite, though. A recent Twitter poll revealed that 87% of people surveyed had suffered from imposter syndrome at least once in their life.
Maybe it’s time to understand this phenomenon better. That way, the next time you start to suspect everyone in the world is more qualified and mysteriously better at their jobs than you, you’ll know what’s really going on!
5 signs you might suffer from imposter syndrome
- You minimize your achievements.
When you accomplish something, you downplay its significance, even though you’d find it impressive from literally anybody else!
If you’ve ever responded to “congratulations” with “it’s no big deal,” “I got lucky,” or “anybody could have done it,” then you’re showing signs of imposter syndrome.
- You project your success onto other people. When sufferers of imposter syndrome do well, they often find themselves giving other people the credit. This goes beyond gratitude into self-effacement.
Remember, arrogance is unbecoming, but so is excessive humility. If you find yourself deflecting praise away from yourself, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome.
- You assume that your supporters are either lying or “just being nice.” Can you accept compliments without looking for an ulterior motive or an alternative explanation? If not, it’s time to examine your imposter syndrome.
Sufferers are often unable to take praise at face value. They’ll look for any excuse to dismiss the positive feedback they receive.
- You’re scared to try new things or be “bad” at anything. Confident people understand that failure is part of growth and that you have to start new things badly to get better at them.
Someone suffering from imposter syndrome has such a shaky sense of self that they’re scared to reveal any weaknesses. Because they already feel undeserving of their position, they secretly believe that the smallest error might expose them as a fraud.
- You dilute your words. Are you someone who shies away from expressing a strong opinion, even when you’re directly asked for your perspective?
This often manifests as minimizing language; for example, saying “I’m not sure” when you are, or bookending every statement you make with “I could be wrong, though!” The excessive use of wishy-washy words like “might,” “just,” and “kind of” are telltale signs of imposter syndrome.
How imposter syndrome can limit your potential
Ironically, one side effect of imposter syndrome is that you may end up convincing others that you’re less capable than you are. If you consistently fight back against other people’s positive opinions of you, that negativity may start to rub off on them.
Unhealthy amounts of self-doubt undermine your credibility. When you undervalue your perspective, you encourage others to do the same. If you start your sentences with “I’m not sure,” then expect people to treat them with the lightness that you do. Understandably, they won’t be sure either!
Lastly, imposter syndrome can limit your potential by dissuading you from trying new things and taking the necessary risks to grow. You’ve already made your comfort zone uncomfortable, which means you’ll be too focused on self-preservation to pursue self-development.
How to manage imposter syndrome
- Respect other people’s opinions. You may not realize it, but when you minimize or reject positive feedback, you’re dismissing someone else’s perspective, which can be hurtful for them.
By reframing compliments in this way, you can learn to receive them gracefully.
- Keep a record of your successes. Imposter syndrome isn’t rooted in reality, but you can still use hard facts to challenge it.
The next time your negative inner voice implies that you’re incapable, turn to your list of achievements that says otherwise. Remind yourself regularly of the challenges you’ve overcome in the past.
- Make connections with coworkers. People suffering from imposter syndrome often feel like they need to present themselves as polished and perfect at all times. Sadly, this prevents them from accessing the support they need.
Instead, practice asking for help and constructive feedback on your work. This will help build up resilience and challenge the underlying belief that you’re expected to be all-knowing at all times.
Once you get to know your peers, you’ll soon discover that they, too, suffer from moments of imposter syndrome! Maybe you can even help each other manage it.
After all, self-doubt is normal, but that doesn’t mean it should be allowed to sabotage your success.