Have you ever felt like everyone knew what they were doing, except you?

Do you feel like one day the fraud police will come looking for you and drag you from your desk?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, welcome to the imposter’s club.

In fact, many of us would have experienced it at one time or the other in our lives. So, don’t despair.

What is imposter syndrome?

It is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud despite your education, experience and accomplishments. This term was introduced in 1978 in the article “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by psychologists Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. They also stated that based on their experience, this phenomenon was less evident in men.

Famous women like Charlize Theron (actor), Sheryl Sandberg (business woman) and even former First Lady Michelle Obama have confessed to experiencing it.

Research now shows that both genders feel the imposter syndrome; in fact, nearly 70% of workers say they have experienced this at some point in their life.

Common signs of imposter syndrome

People experience it in varying degrees, and usually, it is visible in relationships, work or generally in life. But sometimes you don’t understand what you are feeling. See if the below resonate with you.

  • Believing you don’t deserve success or happiness
  • Constantly questioning your abilities and skills
  • Thinking you succeeded only because others felt bad for you
  • Being very sensitive with criticism
  • Having difficulty accepting praise
  • Setting very high expectations of yourself
  • Giving others more credit for group endeavours
  • Generally deflecting compliments
  • Finding something bad in good situations

If you can relate to one or more of the above, you may be experiencing this syndrome.

How can I make it stop?

The real way to combat imposterism is to gather evidence. There was once a scientist whose experiments kept blowing up in the lab. Over time, she decided it was her inability and lack of knowledge that made this happen. She felt like an imposter. But she gathered evidence as to why the blowing up happened and she came to know it was the hardware fault and not her incompetence.

If you feel like your promotion at work was sheer luck, investigate why you actually got it. Did you put in the work that was required and you truly deserve this position? Many times, it will be your achievements that got you up the ladder.

Some other ways to overcome this

  • Cut out toxic people and situations from your life.
  • Write a list of your accomplishments
  • Keep a positivity journal
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Set realistic goals

Overcoming imposter syndrome is an ongoing process that will be different for each person. And, it is not like once done it will never come back.

Whenever you notice the signs, stop for a moment, think about, gather evidence and banish the negative thought.

If you still find it hard, talk to a professional or a loved one.

[Photo by John Noonan on Unsplash  ]