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Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Oct 30, 2023


I was reflecting today on being in situations in my life where I feel as though I am being judged for what I am saying. I perceive that people think that I do not know what I am talking about or that I am not up to the job or qualified enough. In the past this feeling has plagued me in several areas of my life. It elicits self-doubt, makes me feel self-conscious and as a result I feel I constantly need to prove my worth and knowledge. I can then put pressure on myself to perform. It impacts on my confidence and makes me feel like I cannot express myself eloquently, thereby impinging on my speech and verbal communication. I now understand that these are symptoms of Imposter Syndrome.

Of course, I do not know if people really think this about me and the evidence and feedback I have received from friends, family and those who have worked with and managed me in a work context would actually contradict this internal feeling and belief I have described above.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

The term Imposter Syndrome was coined by two clinical psychologists: Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Imposter syndrome is considered to be a cognitive distortion as people experiencing it often do not believe in themselves, their knowledge or skills. It can be exacerbated by negative experiences at home, work or in the world. Things like discrimination, class and socio-economic status can all increase the feeling of being inferior, thereby fuelling imposter syndrome. It really is a self-defeating tendency and one we should address if we know we experience it.

So how do we recognise it?

We can all be plagued by self-doubt on occasion, but for those who experience imposter syndrome, this happens more frequently. How do you know if you are experiencing imposter syndrome? Some of the characteristics of imposter syndrome include: not feeling good enough, not feeling as if you belong, doubting yourself, undervaluing your contributions, self-sabotage, overachieving - as you do not feel you know enough, are not doing enough and giving the credit for your success to others. If you do not address imposter syndrome it can impact negatively on your life, your relationships and your self-esteem. It can become a barrier to feeling happy and living a life of purpose.

I was reminded of a time when I recognised this in myself. Some years ago I attended training on presentations skills. Presenting was something I felt uncomfortable with so I went on a training course. At the end of the course when we were getting feedback the trainer told me that he thought the issue I had with presenting was actually F.E.A.R. and by this he meant not my fear but F.E.A.R representing False Evidence Appearing Real. He meant it was my own internal perception that was causing the problem. The trainer and the

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