Impostor syndrome

What is it?

You finally get the job of your dreams, the job you’ve been waiting for. For a while you bask in your own glory, telling yourself you deserve this and are a total rockstar. And then something happens… You start to make excuses about why you got it (“But they couldn’t find any other good candidates”) and why you shouldn’t take it (“It’s only a matter of time until they realise I’m a fraud”). These thoughts only escalate once you start the job – you find yourself waiting for someone to come to your desk and say “I’m so sorry but we made a terrible mistake, you have to leave now”.

Sound familiar? You are not alone. Many high achievers have impostor syndrome at one point, regardless of how much evidence there is of their competence. Impostor syndrome is not limited to work, and can manifest itself in many areas of life, such as friendship, love and sports.

So why do we feel this way? How can we paint such a distorted image of ourselves when all our previous achievements are staring straight at us? The causes may range from feelings of not being good enough to social media making us feel like we’re always a step behind.

Regardless of the cause, impostor syndrome can trap us into a negative thinking spiral and can actually be counterproductive, making us shy away from extra responsibility for fear of being “found out“.

What can you do about it?

It’s tempting to give in to our thoughts and stay under the radar for fear of being “ousted”. But why not try to take a step back and see how much more you could achieve if you could only realise how much you deserve everything you have? Try our tips!

List your achievements

Do this when you feel impostor syndrome creeping in

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the “impostor syndrome” spiral and to forget about your achievements, so reminding yourself of your successes helps to break the negative cycle and provide some immediate relief
  • Write down three achievements that you are proud of and remind yourself that you were responsible for these
  • Do this often and take some time to notice the positive feelings that arise

Don’t believe everything you see/hear

Do this when you feel impostor syndrome creeping in

  • We sometimes dismiss our achievements because we think we had to work a lot harder than others to get to the same place or, alternatively, had a stroke of luck. This only makes us feel worse and reinforces negative feelings.
  • When these thoughts come up, remind yourself that you don’t know the full story
  • Many people aren’t honest about how much work goes into achievements or whether they have a lucky break
  • Doing this will help you take a step back and be a bit more rational about yourself and others

Dig a little deeper

Do this when you feel impostor syndrome creeping in

  • Have you noticed that you’re more likely to feel impostor syndrome when you are going through a difficult time?
  • Ask yourself: “What is this really about?” 
  • It may well be that you are just feeling insecure about the isolated event, but this is more likely to be the case if you have a belief that you are not good enough or are doubting your self-worth
  • Once you know what the problem is, you can start doing something about it!

Talk to a friend

Do this when you feel impostor syndrome creeping in

  • Sharing your worries with someone who cares about you has been demonstrated to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Not only that, but you’d be surprised at how many people have impostor syndrome. By telling people how you feel, you might learn that others feel the same, which will demonstrate that it’s a feeling fuelled by you rather than a reality.

Ground yourself

Do this when you feel impostor syndrome creeping in

  • Sit comfortably with your feet firmly planted on the floor
  • Push your feet against the floor as hard as possible and notice the physical feeling of this
  • Touch something – a pet, a set of keys, a phone, whatever! – and notice the feeling of the object against your fingertips
  • This really helps to distract you from your negative thoughts and focus on the present – try to do this as often as possible

Limit social media use

Always do this

  • We always say this but it’s true: social media does you no favours in terms of self-esteem.
  • Constantly being exposed to other peoples’ (filtered) effortless successes will not help your feelings of being undeserving of your achievements  – your life looks amazing on social media too, doesn’t it!?
  • Try to limit checking social media to once or twice a day, and avoid reverting to it automatically every time you’re bored.

Speak to a therapist

Do this if you feel like you are having trouble with these feelings

  • It’s sometimes hard to deal with negative feelings about ourselves, and we sometimes need a little help from a professional
  • Speaking to a therapist sounds scary, but it really isn’t! In fact, studies have shown that individual therapy is a highly effective way to change thought patterns and negative spirals

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