My aim is to throw some light on various aspects of mental health and well-being, including covering topics which you bring to my attention. I also like to shed light on various phrases or buzzwords we all hear from time to time. ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is another of those phrases we may hear in the workplace, or in day-to-day conversation.
We can all have some self-doubts from time to time, it is only natural when encountering a new situation. However, when we begin to constantly doubt ourselves in a professional capacity, perhaps by constantly questioning our own ability. Feeling like a fraud in the workplace by comparing ourselves unfavourably to others, then it can self-perpetuate and become a very real problem for some people. It may lead to feelings of going to get ‘caught out’, when in fact, there is nothing to be caught out for, it is merely our own incorrect feelings of inadequacy.
You may be surprised to learn that even some of the most prominent leaders in industry and commerce doubt themselves from time to time and feel undeserved of their success. People at the top of their game can actually be plagued with self-doubt.
People who grew up in families where achievement was highly valued and where there was a lot of pressure to succeed may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome. This is because they may have learned to internalise the belief that they are never good enough, no matter how much they achieve.
The evidence suggests that those of us who identify under the rainbow flag are more likely to experience imposter syndrome than those who don’t. This is because we are often subject to stereotypes, and statistically are more likely to struggle with our mental health.
As we know from recent media coverage, our trans-siblings are also subjected to treatment where their gender identity may be doubted or even ridiculed. Not only is this downright cruel, it will also compound any self-doubt they may be experiencing and fuel imposter syndrome.
So, what can you do about it? I would suggest you start by listening to other people rather than yourself. All too often, when we are in a negative frame of mind, which ultimately is a cause of imposter syndrome, we get consumed by our own negativity. Listen with an open mind and hear what you are being told about your achievements, about the high regard your colleagues hold you in.
This is where we can all help to support each other, no matter how we identify under the rainbow flag. We all have far more common ground with each other than differences. Building somebody up with a kind word or two can make all the difference to them, and to us.
Imposter syndrome is when we doubt our own capability, despite evidence to the contrary, so we need to look for that evidence and absorb it. If you find that particularly difficult, then it may be helpful to write down a list of positive past achievements to put them front of mind. Have a good, long think to yourself of every professional achievement you have made so far, whether it be a promotion you had 10 years ago, when you were employee of the month last year, when you had a favourable appraisal last month. Whatever achievements they were, no matter how small, do not underestimate them; do not cheat yourself by telling yourself you did not deserve them.
Another common factor with people affected by imposter syndrome is a constant strive for perfectionism – it doesn’t exist, the sooner a person accepts that fact, the sooner they can lower their stress levels, think clearly and move on with their life. Perfectionists may also be afraid of making mistakes, which can lead them to avoid challenging tasks or opportunities.
Something else you may find helpful, is to stop believing everything you see on social media. It is very easy to feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to others. Remember, what we see on social media is usually a ‘snapshot’ of other people’s perfect moments, achievements, and successes, don’t get caught out by it!
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Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various disciplines and an instructor member of Mental Health First Aid England.
Please note: If you feel you are in a mental health crisis or emergency and feel you may be in danger of causing harm to yourself or others then please contact your GP, The Samaritans on 116 123 or attend A&E.