“Sometimes, sitting here in the dark, slowly slowly creating strategy, she wondered if she was only fooling herself to think her plans were clever.” ― Vernor Vinge, The Children of the Sky
Many people suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s common to feel inadequate or that you haven’t properly earned the things you have. That you’re undeserving of your career or personal life achievements. You might feel like a fish out of water. You’re definitely not alone. According to the publication Canadian HRReporter, three in five workers feel like they have imposter syndrome! That is over 50%. This means a large percentage of our workforce have negative feelings about themselves when it comes to their career. We know that our mental health is so important, especially at work. We spend a large portion of our lives working, so it’s crucial that we tackle these issues. Sure, there will be bad days and stressful days, but you don’t need to spend every day wondering if you truly belong where you are.
To get started, let’s look at what exactly imposter syndrome is.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
In the simplest terms, imposter syndrome is when you falsely assume that you aren’t worthy of the position you are in. This can be at work, but also in your personal life. Maybe you feel like you aren’t worthy of a promotion at work and you feel like a fraud. Or at home you feel beneath your significant other and wonder why they’re even with you, when you have so many “flaws.” Yes, we’re all our own worst critics, but there comes a point where this gets in the way of your enjoyment of life. If you’re spending your day in a negative headspace, you’re not only affecting yourself but those around you.
Imposter syndrome comes in many forms. Many people relate to one more than the others. Sometimes, the first step to healing is to identify the problem. Let’s look a the five forms of imposter syndrome:
- The Perfectionist – The perfectionist feels like a fraud or undeserving of praise if they didn’t execute their task perfectly. It’s either perfect or it’s a complete failure in their eyes.
- The Superhero – The superhero is someone who feels inadequate in their professional and personal lives, so they go to extremes to prove they’re worthy. This often causes more stress, because they’re trying so hard to prove something that still feels unattainable.
- The Natural Genius – The natural genius feels shame when a task or concept doesn’t come naturally to them.
- The Soloist – The soloist is someone who hates asking for help. If and when they do ask for help, they feel like a failure. They feel like they need to have done something all on their own to properly earn praise.
- The Expert – The expert feels like they aren’t smart enough to have earned their position and feels like they’re going to be exposed.
Now, it’s important to read these definitions to feel validated and understood when it comes to imposter syndrome. However, labeling yourself as something with a negative connotation is never the solution. These definitions are great for acknowledging the problem, but the next step must always be finding a practical solution.
How to Break Free from Imposter Syndrome
Anyone can suffer from imposter syndrome. From those in leadership positions to job seekers – feeling like you don’t deserve what you have or that you shouldn’t try to achieve better because you aren’t worthy of it are common. But you don’t have to live like this. You can set yourself free from this kind of negative self-talk.
First off, it’s important to note that imposter syndrome isn’t really a syndrome at all. It’s not a clinical diagnosis. That said, it’s still a real and valid experience. Regardless of what these feelings are categorized as, you need to set yourself free from them.
The American Psychological Association put forth seven strategies to help combat imposter feelings. They are as follows:
- Learn the Facts – This one encourages you to look at the bigger picture. Examine the facts…and feelings aren’t facts. Look at how you got where you are and why you deserve it.
- Share your Feelings – Talk to a trusted friend or colleague about your feelings. This will make you feel less lonely, because you will probably learn that they too, have these feelings. It also helps to get another perspective on the situation.
- Celebrate your Successes – Part of having imposter syndrome is not believing in your own successes. Try to turn that around and celebrate each success without talking it down.
- Let Go of Perfectionism – This one will speak to the perfectionists here, but can probably be applied more broadly. Rather than seeking perfection, you should instead strive for progress. Progress will have its bumps along the way, but if you’re progressing, you’re succeeding.
- Cultivate Self-Compassion – Practice mindfulness to knock down those negative thoughts when they arise. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
- Share your Failures – These can be teachable moments. When you share your failures you can dive into what went wrong and how you can fix it. It’s a good problem solving exercise. Focus on the final outcome and what you learned in order to get there.
- Accept it – By accepting that these feelings will happen you can set yourself free of them. You’ll learn to recognize when you’re doubting yourself for no good reason.
There you have it. Seven strategies to help you combat the negative feelings that come with imposter syndrome. Let’s look at #2 and #6 – Share your feelings and failures. Founder and CEO, Jennifer Ménard-Shand has her own experience feeling like an imposter.
“Feeling like an impostor started at age 11 when I would pretend everything was okay at school in front of my friends – meanwhile, I was dealing with domestic violence, alcoholism and chaos at home which led to bad behaviour/decisions, guilt and shame. This feeling was fueled by the practice of perfectionism throughout my career and struggle to survive since I had promised myself that failure was not an option. I reached a point where the pressure turned into a phobia of failing and when I did inevitably fail, it was debilitating. I would beat myself up, the cycle would persist and I trusted no one.
Solutions like EMDR therapy, reconnecting with my faith, learning to be vulnerable and authentic without fear, trusting mentors and the village who raises us all, are what eventually crushed this destructive belief in my 30s. Today, I stay humble. I ask for help when needed. I serve others faithfully. And I’m heroically armed for the next time…if there ever is a next time.”
If you want to dive deeper, you are welcome to book time with Jennifer to talk and share your stories together. No one gets to where they want to be alone. And as you enter new phases of your life and career, these negative feelings are bound to rear their ugly head again, but that’s okay because you’ll know what to do 🙂
Contact us at Staff Shop today to book your time!
Disclaimer: This blog is offering advice and solutions based on research and the expertise of others. It does in no way replace the opinions of medical professionals when it comes to diagnosing mental health disorders. If your negative feelings are affecting your enjoyment of life in a serious way, we recommend that you speak to a licensed professional.