What Is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome is a term that often appears in conversations around topics like career goals, success, ambition, and talent but what exactly is it? And how can you defeat it if you experience these feelings? We discuss all aspects of Impostor Syndrome in today’s blog post.

Impostor Syndrome

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome, or Impostor Phenomenon, is a term coined by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in their 1978 paper titled, ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention‘.

Impostor Syndrome describes someone that, despite their accomplishments, feels that they have fooled others into believing that they are intelligent and/or they have succeeded due to luck instead of their talent.

Who Experiences Impostor Syndrome?

Anyone can feel this way. Clance and Imes wrote their paper on the idea that Impostor Syndrome was prevalent amongst high achieving women however as the term grew in popularity it was clear that both men and women experienced this feeling. Clance even wrote another paper acknowledging that surveys of both sexes “have found no differences between the sexes in the degree to which they experience impostor feelings.”

And not only does it affect all people, but it can affect people at any stage in their career. It is estimated that 70% of people will deal with Impostor Syndrome at some point throughout their lives.

Individuals experience Impostor Syndrome due to a variety of underlying factors such as: general anxiety, lack of self-confidence, depression, or frustrations related to not living up to the goals they have set for themselves.

How Can You Defeat Impostor Syndrome?

If you are experiencing Impostor Syndrome there are multiple ways to try and defeat these feelings, including:

Confiding in Others

Whether you just want to share the feelings you’re experiencing or want to have someone help you rebuild your self-confidence it can be very helpful to talk through your feelings with someone that you feel comfortable confiding in. They can help to build you back up and remind you of your strengths which will help to silence those voices telling you that you are not talented or worthy of your achievements.

Identify the Problem 

Identify if there is something specific that has brought on these feelings. Where you just assigned a new project at work that you don’t feel qualified for? Find out what is making you doubt your abilities and remember that if a manager/supervisor has given you that responsibility than that means that they believe in you; so you can start to take steps to believe in yourself.

Research, Research, Research

If you are still unable to shake the Impostor Syndrome feelings when working on a specific task then try becoming more educated about the subject. Doing research on a subject can help give you an even better understanding and confidence in that subject and that can help to put aside any doubts that you were experiencing.

Try the Opposite

If you are still experiencing low-confidence you can always try to picture what it would be like or what you would do in any given situation if you WERE confident. The common phrase is ‘fake it ’til you make it’ and a version of this can be applied here. You may feel like an impostor on the inside but acting as though you are confident on the outside may actually help to change your internal mindset.

Change Your Vocabulary

Often when people have low self-confidence or doubt they will talk down to themselves or speak about themselves to others in a negative way. Be aware of the language you’re using to describe yourself to others and be sure to maintain a positive outlook towards yourself and your accomplishments; this can be a huge factor in changing your future outlook/feelings.

Do I have Impostor Syndrome?

Unsure if you have Impostor Syndrome tendencies? Try this test developed by Pauline Rose Clance and if you do find yourself experiencing these feelings be sure to follow the tips above to help defeat Impostor Syndrome and work towards being proud of your achievements that you have rightfully earned!