Today in Mindset Mondays, Adam Smith - from A-Game Consultancy and Hospitality Wellness – turns his attention to Impostor Syndrome and how it can manifest
What is Imposter Syndrome? It refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.
To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony— you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud — like you don't belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.
Some of the common signs of imposter syndrome include:
Self-doubt - an inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
Attributing your success to external factors
Berating your performance
Fear that you won't live up to expectations
Sabotaging your own success
Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
While for some people, impostor syndrome can fuel feelings of motivation to achieve, this usually comes at a cost in the form of constant anxiety. You might over-prepare or work much harder than necessary to "make sure" that nobody finds out you are a fraud. This sets up a vicious cycle, in which you think that the only reason you survived that class presentation was that you stayed up all night rehearsing. Or, you think the only reason you got through that party or family gathering was that you memorised details about all the guests so that you would always have ideas for small talk.
The problem with impostor syndrome is that the experience of doing well at something does nothing to change your beliefs. Even though you might sail through a performance or have lunch with co-workers, the thought still nags in your head: "What gives me the right to be here?" The more you accomplish, the more you just feel like a fraud. It's as though you can't internalise your experiences of success.
This makes sense in terms of social anxiety if you received early feedback that you were not good at social or performance situations. Your core beliefs about yourself are so strong, that they don't change, even when there is evidence to the contrary. The thought process is: If you do well, it must be the result of luck because a socially incompetent person just doesn't belong.
Eventually, these feelings worsen anxiety and may lead to depression. People who experience impostor syndrome also tend not to talk about how they are feeling with anyone and struggle in silence, just as do those with social anxiety disorder.
If you think you might have imposter syndrome, ask yourself the following questions: do you agonise over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work? Do you attribute your success to luck or outside factors? Are you very sensitive to even constructive criticism? Do you feel like you will inevitably be found out as a phony? Do you downplay your own expertise, even in areas where you are genuinely more skilled than others?
If you don't get hold of your own thoughts, they will control you.