At some point in our lives, most of us have felt out of our depth. Any parents out there have no doubt questioned their ability to care for their tiny humans. Runners have found themselves at the starting line of a race wondering: ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ Workers are often overwhelmed by the notion that they don’t belong in their role – that they’re not skilled or experienced enough and will be ‘found out’ at any moment.
You’ve probably read about ‘imposter syndrome’, which is an apt name for those occasions when we doubt our abilities and feel like a fraud. Research suggests that more than 80 per cent of us will experience this feeling at least once in our lives.
Why do we feel this way? Your upbringing can play a part – perhaps you come from a family of high achievers, where the expectation to perform is disproportionately extreme. Sometimes it’s provoked when you start a new role or take on a new challenge. Or it might just be part of your personality, with certain traits – like low self-efficacy, perfectionism and neuroticism – putting you at higher risk.
Whatever the cause, if you frequently find yourself experiencing feelings of inadequacy, questioning your abilities, comparing yourself to others, attributing your success to ‘luck’ or living in fear that your ‘ineptitudes’ will be discovered, then chances are, you’ve got a nasty case of imposter syndrome.
We’d love to tell you there’s a magic solution, but to be honest, there isn’t. Most of us will feel like a fraud sometimes. That’s life. But what can help is to explore what it is that makes you ‘worthy’ – creating a file, so to speak, of all your best features and accomplishments. Think of it as a mock job interview – what attributes do you have that would make an employer want to hire you?
- How do I think differently to others?
- What makes me stand out from the crowd?
- What can I do brilliantly that people around me can’t?
- What do others most appreciate about who I am?
- What evidence do I have to support my uniqueness?
- What do people consistently tell me I am amazing at?
It can also help to remember that most of the people around you feel like imposters too. That person in the office you’re always comparing yourself to is probably questioning their own prowess from time to time. They might even be comparing themselves unfavourably to you!
If you’re keen to hear about someone else’s experience with imposter syndrome, take a look at this very funny and honest TED Talk
(13:34) by Atlassian’s co-Founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes. (We should point out here that this guy is a self-made billionaire – so not someone you’d assume suffers from chronic self-doubt.) His advice? Instead of freezing every time you feel like a fraud, just work through it – commit to ongoing learning and turn those negative feelings into a force for good.
– The Coach Place Global
Image by @Kyle Glen
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