Imposter Syndrome – Know that you’re in good company

Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Maya Angelou, David Bowie have all been open about their struggles with imposter syndrome, proving it can happen to anyone at any stage.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is an extreme form of self-doubt, when you don’t believe your achievements are real. 

If you have experienced that nagging feeling of being undeserving, or you didn’t “earn” your success, you got “lucky”, welcome to impostor syndrome.

People with imposter syndrome tend to be to be perfectionists, feeling self-doubt whenever something doesn’t go as planned. Even when things go well, they still feel they could have done better. They may procrastinate, looking for ‘extra information’ before starting a task as they worry about looking stupid if they don’t know something.

Spotting the signs of imposter syndrome

The first step to dealing with imposter syndrome is to admit that you have it. If you have imposter syndrome, you may:

  • Feel like a fake or a fraud
  • Never feel good enough
  • Feel like you don’t belong
  • Be filled with self-doubt
  • Feel uncomfortable when people praise you
  • Have a habit of playing down your strengths
  • Find it hard to take credit for your accomplishments

You may also focus on:

  • Your mistakes
  • Your weaknesses 
  • What you don’t know
  • What you can’t do

Whilst imposter syndrome is not a recognised mental health problem it can significantly impact your mental health, from high stress levels, burnout, anxiety and depression. 

The good news is that there are a many proven approaches to help.

5 strategies that may help overcome feeling like a fraud

  1. Recognise self-doubt and note when it occurs – these are emotions rather than facts and can be challenged
  2. Talk about it – with friends, colleagues and professionals as discussion can reduce its grip on you. A support network outside of work is is often recommended
  3. Recognise your strengths – write down achievements, strengths, positive feedback and celebrate yourself
  4. Listen to the struggles of others, especially those you respect – friends, celebrities, podcasts and know that you are not alone (cue Michael Jackson) 
  5. Accept perfection is impossible – set realistic targets and try and accept that mistakes are natural and lead to your next achievements and discoveries.

If you’re struggling to cope with your thoughts and feelings, it’s important to seek professional help by speaking to your GP or finding a counsellor.