Have you ever come across certain people who feel they’re not good enough or well qualified enough for a particular task or job? Or have you ever felt that way? I have seen such people and i have been there too! I was reading a lot on that subject trying to find answers and i came across various articles and podcasts addressing this issue. While many like to call that ‘Self doubt’ a number of publications and articles call that ‘Imposter Syndrome.’
Well, first of all, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon which gives people a feeling that they’re really not successful, competent, or smart and that they’re only imposing as such. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, Imposter syndrome can be defined as ‘a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success’.
According to the British Psychological Society, the Imposter Syndrome has 3 defining features
- ‘A feeling that other people have an inflated perception of your abilities’
- ‘Fear that your true abilities will be found out’
- ‘A persistent tendency to attribute successes to external factors, such as luck or disproportionate effort’
On a podcast on Imposter syndrome with Amy Silvers & Lori Cavallucci, Imposter Syndrome is common among successful high achieving male and female professionals. However, what’s more interesting is that this phenomenon is much more common among high achieving women who feel despite their high qualification, they still have no internal sense of success. Infact, many women who had achieved success still doubted their ability to make it. They felt they didn’t own it and feared that they’d arrived there by mistake or through luck.
There are dangers attached to feeling like a ‘fake’. This occurs mostly and especially when the imposters desperately want to succeed thus they end up becoming impatient and abrasive to an extent that they damage the organizations or the working environment.
A study by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes on ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women’ reveal the origins of this Syndrome to actually be in the roots of the family. Here, the researchers give an example of a women with siblings or close relatives who have been designated as the “intelligent” members of the family. The women, on the other hand, are told that they are the “sensitive” ones in the family. The implication that follows is that they can never prove how bright they are compared to her siblings or relatives regardless of what they accomplishe intellectually. I Know that feeling!
On a separate article by the New York Times, although Imposter Syndrome can temper with the natural instinct to define one’s own competence, it can actually turn out to be a good thing for professionals. This occurs especially when people ‘maintain that they are not as good as other people think, and lower others’ expectations, thus get credit for being humble.’
So how to overcome it? There are a number of resources available including therapy as suggested by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in their study findings.