Do you ever doubt yourself? When you start a new job or land an important assignment, do you ever wonder if you’re good enough? Will you be able to successfully complete this new challenge? Most people will probably answer these questions affirmatively. Logical too. After all, everyone is insecure sometimes. Everyone wonders from time to time whether they will live up to the expectations others have of them, especially in working circumstances.
But, for some people, this goes even further. These people often feel that they are not good enough, that they really don’t deserve that promotion at all, and that it is only a matter of time before those around them realize that they are not as competent as they appear to be.
For those of you who are already fed up with the corporate jungle, please check out my perfect way out in the last paragraphs.
Here is a definition of this impostor syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many people question whether they’re deserving of accolades.
Your new job is going well and people appreciate what you do. And what happens? That’s when fear can strike: my achievements mean nothing! You attribute personal successes to luck, and you magnify failures – they are proof that you are nothing deep down. In this case, you probably suffer from impostor syndrome.
People with this syndrome have the feeling that they are impostors and will be exposed any time soon. Very annoying, but there really is a way out and you can get rid of it.
Here is a striking example
‘That is really a job for you, Cynthia (32) is told by friends who have seen an advertisement for a prestigious job in the advertising world. Cynthia also likes it: nice work and she can earn twice as much. She has almost recovered from burnout and is ready for a new challenge. Enthusiastically, she writes a letter of application full of bravado. Not much chance of her getting that job. Only, to her amazement, she is accepted and she also gets all the extra things she asked for.
She sets to work in good spirits. She does just fine as the only young woman among mostly white, middle-aged men. But the euphoria is short-lived. An unstoppable voice has crept into her head. “Aren’t you kidding?” the voice asks. “Can you handle this?” “Soon everyone will see that you are a complete layman.”
The voice makes Cynthia insecure. During a presentation, she speaks with a trembling voice. She is ashamed and also angry with herself: why is she so distracted by that voice in her head? It is horrible. She begins to worry, spends more time preparing her presentations, sleeps less well, and eventually calls in sick. Which only adds to her shame.
Cynthia exhibits the typical characteristics of impostor syndrome: thinking you are not suitable for your task despite proven competence, and fearing that others will discover that you are pretending to be better than you are.
The first researchers into this phenomenon thought that it mainly occurred in highly educated women, but we now know that it is broader in scope. Almost everyone with a demanding job knows to a greater or lesser extent the fear of being revealed as not that good. Impostor syndrome is not seen as a psychological disorder, but as a reaction pattern to outside impressions.
It is in your head
You could think of it as a mental algorithm: a scheme in your head through which you perceive the world in a certain way. Such a scheme may have arisen early on.
For example, if one of your parents thinks that he or she is inadequate and then conveys this to you as a child: you never do well enough. Those are the glasses with which you are going to perceive the world. You attribute personal successes to luck, and you magnify failures – they are proof that you are nothing deep down. The result is that you do not feel the appreciation of others and you experience your environment as unsafe.
What can you do if you suffer from impostor syndrome?
The first step you can take is to see the thoughts and feelings you have about your own functioning as the outcome of a scheme in your head, and not as a correct judgment of yourself. Don’t give too much importance to those thoughts, you can also put them aside. What can help is realizing that you don’t have to be perfect to be good enough?
Another trick is to make a mistake on purpose, admit that mistake, and be open to the reactions that it provokes. Do people drop you? Usually not. It is often appreciated if you express some vulnerability. It will facilitate others to also share their blunders with you. Keep in mind the atmosphere in which you work. Is there a culture of reckoning and fear? Then you better skip this step.
The next step is to build a new mental scheme. For example, by making a list of things that are important to you. This makes it easier to distance yourself from the perceived judgment of others.
What also helps is to focus on people you think are worthwhile. Look at this more often. Do things together that give you pleasure. Before you know it you have reprogrammed yourself.
Fear of bosses? Here is your way out
As mentioned before, there are a number of people with this imposter syndrome and it will affect the quality of their work. And if you also are afraid of your boss or bosses, this will only aggravate the problem.
If you see no way out of this situation, think of beginning for yourself, starting by working outside office hours and slowly building your own business. Here is how to do this: become an affiliate marketer.
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As soon as you have that, you can start building out your website with articles relevant to your niche and with the aim to help people. Subsequently, people will begin visiting your website and as you build further, you can start promoting products relevant to your niche.
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