Imposter syndrome can affect everyone, at any stage in their career, but often strikes those who are embarking on new or challenging career roles.
The phrase 'Imposter Phenomenon', or syndrome, was first coined in 1978 by Clance & Imes¹, and is now recognised to be a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome can lead to:
- A sense of being a fraud;
- Feelings of incompetency or inadequacy;
- Difficulty with internalising success;
- A sense of not belonging;
- A fear of being ‘found out’.
It’s important to understand that imposter syndrome can affect everyone, at any stage in their career. But it often strikes those who are embarking on new or challenging career moves or roles.
Philippa Thurgur, Programme Director for the Talent Development Programme, recognises that participants often identify managing imposter syndrome as one of their key development needs. Here she shares sevens ways to reduce feelings of imposter syndrome:
- Recognise imposter feelings when they emerge
Changing your mindset about your own abilities is key, and awareness is the first step to making this change. So, tracking these thoughts is helpful: identify what they are and when they emerge, acknowledge them and try to accept that they are normal.
- Rewrite your mental pathways
Be mindful of your beliefs and emotions, and how these can be used in a more positive way to put situations or anxieties into perspective. So, for example, instead of telling yourself ‘they will find me out’, remind yourself that it’s normal not to know everything and that you will learn more as you progress.
- Focus on the facts
Every time you have a negative thought about your capabilities, ask yourself:
- Is the thought actually accurate?
- What evidence do I have that supports this thought?
- Does this thinking help or hinder me?
- Embrace success
When imposter syndrome strikes, it’s easy to invalidate achievements, but even the smallest wins should be acknowledged. It's important to take time to appreciate all your successes and develop and implement rewards to celebrate them.
- Remember what you do well
Writing your achievements down can help and try to revisit them often:
- Focus on your own achievements and resist the urge to compare yourself to others.
- Make a realistic assessment of your abilities.
- Identify the things that you’re good at, and the areas that might need work.
- Recognise where and how you have made progress and celebrate your achievements.
- Share your thoughts
Whether it’s to a friend, mentor, or colleague, it is helpful to talk to someone else about your feelings. Getting others’ perspective can:
- Help dismiss any irrational beliefs,
- Help you recognise your personal progress,
- Ground yourself in reality.
- Be kind to yourself
Finally, remember that it’s OK and completely normal to make small mistakes occasionally, and forgive yourself. No one is perfect, so don’t focus on perfection.
Most people will experience the symptoms of impostor syndrome at some point in their lives, when perceptions do not mirror reality. These techniques for overcoming imposter syndrome take time and practice, but they can help to alleviate negative thoughts.
Talent Development Programme
Imposter syndrome is one of the key subjects addressed in our Talent Development Programme. To find out more download the brochure here:
¹ Clance, P.R. & Imes, S.A. (1978). The impostor phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15, 241-247