How to navigate the "Impostor Syndrome"


Read the disclaimer with a “pinch of salt” and a smile.

Use this article and questionnaire “at your own risk”.

The prolonged use of some, or all, of the below techniques can cause confidence.

Do not consume while driving.

Instructions: Below is a list of questions that relate to life experiences common amongst people who have been suffering from “impostor syndrome”. Read each question carefully and consider whether it applies to you or not.

1. I feel uneasy and discouraged if I’m not “the best” or at least “very special” in situations that involve achievement.

2. I am disappointed with my present accomplishments and think I should have accomplished much more in life.

3. If I receive a great deal of praise and recognition for something I’ve accomplished, I tend to discount the importance of what I’ve done.

4. I often compare my ability with that of those around me and think they may be more intelligent, or somehow more deserving, than I am.

5. I sometimes think to myself that I must have obtained my present position or gained my present success because I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and/or knew the right people.

If you can relate to some of these statements, it is very likely that you´re experiencing, or have experienced, the so-called “impostor phenomenon” or more widely known as “impostor syndrome”. Figures show that 7 out of 10 people face this at some point in their lives.

Impostor what?

For those of you less familiar with this term, it was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD in the 1970s. Impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud, or think that other people have an inflated perception of their abilities.

What are the root causes?

In the mid-1990s, Clance and her colleagues argued that the impostor phenomenon can be fostered in a child by parents who selectively value certain aspects of that child, such as attractiveness and sociability, whilst undervaluing others, such as intelligence. The idea is that the child raised in this way builds a self-concept around the characteristics valued by the parents and later resists attributing successes to virtues (such as high intelligence) that don’t fit with this parentally defined self-concept.

Other factors to be considered are societal pressure and expectations, gender and/or race.

How can we help people with “impostorism”?

1. Recognize your expertise: Don't just look to those who are more experienced for help, however. Tutoring or working with younger students, for instance, can help you realize how far you've come and how much knowledge you have to impart.

2. Realize no one is perfect: Clance urges people with impostor feelings to stop focusing on perfection. "Do a task ‘well enough,'" she says. It's also important to take time to appreciate the fruits of your hard work. "Develop and implement rewards for success — learn to celebrate," she adds.

3. Change your thinking: People with impostor feelings have to reframe the way they think about their achievements. For instance, rather than spending 10 hours on an assignment, you might cut yourself off at eight. Or you may let a friend read a draft that you haven't yet perfectly polished. "Superstitions need to be changed very gradually because they are so strong," she says.

4. Self-awareness is key, so next time you experience this, ask yourself the following questions:

· When does this happen?

· Is it when I'm speaking with someone in a higher position than me?

· Is it when I'm trying something new?

· How does my inner saboteur look? What are they saying?

If you want to explore this and practise in a safe professional environment check out my course “Persona” focused on Personal Development and Public Speaking.


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