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More than 70% of people experience a feeling of inadequacy, particularly in their careers, despite compelling evidence of success. Even people with great achievements, people who work in positions of high authority are affected by this sense of self-doubt. Researchers apply the name impostor syndrome to this phenomenon. 

If you are one of the millions of people who have accomplished much, but still see yourself as a fraud, you might ask yourself, “what is impostor syndrome?” Let’s explore this psychological pattern and find help to accept the accomplishments you have earned.

What Is Impostor Syndrome?

In short, Impostor Syndrome is a psychological occurrence among people who don’t feel they deserve the success they’ve achieved. It is usually associated with intense feelings of self-doubt. Most often, people report feeling “like a fraud”, particularly in their professional lives. 

Impostor syndrome is especially prevalent among young professionals. A Varkey Foundation study found nearly a third of millennials felt intimidated in the workplace and self-identified as having Impostor Syndrome. There are 17 million young professionals in the UK between the ages of 22 and 38. One-third is a significant number of people who struggle to accept their place in a professional environment.  

Impostor Syndrome isn’t limited to young professionals. Men and women in all age ranges are affected.  

How to Tell If You Have Impostor Syndrome

There’s a difference between feeling unprepared for a meeting and feeling like a fraud in your life. There are Impostor Syndrome tests online you can use to validate your suspicions, but experts classify five “Impostor Categories” in which people typically identify. 

The Perfectionist

The perfectionist is the person who can never make a mistake. Their work always has to be the very best. Every personal and professional effort must be 100%.

The Expert

Expert is something of a misnomer. While people in this category may be seen as an expert, they seldom accept themselves as such. Instead, they continually berate themselves for not knowing everything about a subject.  

The Soloist

If you never need or want help, you’re likely a soloist. The Impostor Syndrome soloist believes they must achieve everything on their own with any assistance from anyone else.

The Superwoman

In early studies of Imposter Syndrome, only women were believed to be affected. This profile, however, applies to both sexes. It’s common among people who believe their competence relies on being able to do everything well, and do it with little effort. 

The Great Mind

There is value in sitting with an idea and waiting for it to develop. However, the Great Mind believes every plan they have must be great, and they must have this great idea quickly and easily. 

Impostor Syndrome Coping Skills

It’s vital to deal with these feelings of inadequacy quickly and frequently. Here are some Impostor Syndrome coping skills that will move you toward overcoming the perception of being an impostor.

1. Accept that it’s okay to be new and not know everything. Being new is an excellent position to be in if you are starting a new career or changing careers. Organisations frequently lament their lack of fresh perspective and a sense of doing things the old way because it is how they’ve always been done.

Being new, you can ask questions that haven’t been considered, approach problem-solving in a new way, and think of things others haven’t tried. Instead of feeling like an impostor, think of yourself as an outsider and a change agent.

2. Learning is sometimes more important than performing. People who suffer from Impostor Syndrome frequently believe they are underperforming when they are trying to learn a task or process. This only reinforces the mindset you are unfit for the job.

Instead, focus on taking time to learn everything you can about your organisation, its people, and its processes. When you shift your perspective in this way, you achieve new ground, even if you make mistakes along the way. 

3. It’s all about perspective. From the entry-level associate to the CEO of a major company, Impostor Syndrome affects people at every stratum of an organisation. Nearly every executive has experienced the fear of being “found out,” or seen to be the fraud they believe they are.

The fact is, very few people feel like they belong where they are. While that is a sobering realization, it is also a comforting one to realize you are not alone. 

How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Managing your feelings of anxiety and changing your perspective are important first steps to accept your success and position. The goal, however, should be a continual validation of your value and capability. In short, we want you to overcome Impostor Syndrome. 

Find Ways to Reinforce Your Expertise

Look for opportunities within your organisation to present ideas or share your experience with others. Many people who train new employees or mentor less experienced professionals report feeling more confident in their abilities.

Accept That Perfection Is Unattainable

This may be a difficult sentence to read, but no one is perfect. The French philosopher Voltaire once said, “better is the enemy of good.” In other words, you can do a task well and enjoy the benefits of a job well done, or you can continually pursue a level of perfection that will never come. 

Find ways and moments to celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how small. Then move on to the next task knowing you’ve done a good job.

Talk with a Professional Life and Career Coach

One of the most frequent suggestions for dealing with Impostor Syndrome is talking with a mentor or coach. Sarah Jones works with individuals and groups to help you regroup or reinvent your career. She can help you find the resilience within you. 

There Is Hope

You’re not alone. Imposter syndrome affects millions of men and women from all walks of life. And while imposter syndrome tests and assessments may help you characterize your condition, it’s essential to know you can move forward with confidence. 

As you use these tips to cope with, and ultimately overcome your feeling of inadequacy, you will undoubtedly encounter others who ask “what is imposter syndrome?” Once you’ve accepted your success, you will be able to offer advice to help others overcome it, as well.

To learn more about how to move your life from vulnerable to invincible, inquire about our career coaching and leadership training services. We’ll book a free consultation and begin to help you achieve more than you thought possible.

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