Imposter Syndrome

Do you feel like a fraud and know that one day you will be ‘caught out?’

Was landing your new job just a ‘fluke?’

You could well have imposter syndrome.  You might not know it, but you will possibly recognize yourself with what I am about to say if you read on.

“I still believe that at any time, the No-Talent Police will come and arrest me.” Mike Myers.

Any of this sound familiar to you?

I feel like a fraud, a fake.

I’m not good enough

I will get caught out.

Does anyone else in your life say this to you (and not your interpretation of what they say, but do they use the words “you are a fraud, and you will get caught out?”

Probably not.

So what is going on?

Many successful people are plagued with self-doubt and genuinely believe they are frauds and imposter.  Feeling not good enough can motivate people like you to achieve perfect things.  Everyone else can see it except you.

Imposter Syndrome is a term used when people cannot see their accomplishments in life and attribute them to their own success.

When reading this, you might recognize it in others but not yourself.

You are a fraud and terrified that one day the people you care about or respect will see that you are fake and do not deserve respect given to you.

It is not me that is calling you a fraud.  If you have a good job and others think that you have done well, but you are convinced that you are fake, keep reading, as maybe by the end of this, you might change your mind.

The thoughts you have about yourself do not match up with your reality of you.

I had a client come to see me, and he was probably the most successful, intelligent person I have ever met.  He came to see me because he was experiencing anxiety, affecting his work.

He sat down and found it easy to tell me about his shortcomings, failures, and inadequacies.  He spoke at length about how he was letting his family down.

During our first meeting, I discovered he had a PhD from Oxford and was an extremely successful international businessman.  Extremely successful in other people’s eyes, except his; he was a fraud.

I was astounded by his academic record; it blew me away.  Not only in academia, but this man was also talented across the board.  He ticked every single box and then some.

He thought he was stupid and spoke at length about,

How he didn’t belong in Oxford

He should not have been there and didn’t know how he got in.

Factually, I told him that to get into Oxford, he would have had to jump through some serious hoops and have an excellent academic record.  He could not see this as a fact.

I just studied hard.

It was just learning facts.

I pushed on with this, saying that all universities (including Oxford) have quantifiable admittance criteria and that I was sure these rules would not be bent for one person who fluked his way in.

Presented with this fact, he seemed uncomfortable but got quickly back into familiar territory by focusing on

I was never good enough there

I was out of my depth.

People with imposter syndrome are convinced that they do not deserve the success they have achieved.

Instead, they are convinced that their accomplishments were by chance or being in the right place at the right time.

Maybe if you got a new job or a promotion, you would believe that there was no one else available, and once you are ‘found out, you will be sacked.

With my client, it was becoming apparent the reason for his anxiety.

He felt inadequate, not good enough, and lived with the fear of being found out.

He worried about going to meetings, giving presentations and making conference calls.  Ironically, he excelled at this (not in his eyes) as he was always over-prepared, in case he should be asked a question that he did not have the answer to and would be publicly shown up as the fraud that he is.

Making a mistake is not an option.

Mistakes equal failure. Exposure.

If you are starting to recognize yourself, you must be open to some cold hard facts.

You are competent if you have not been sacked from your job and maybe have had a promotion.

You do not have to believe this, as it probably will not make sense inside your head, but you might be open to the fact that there cannot be one set of rules for the masses and a unique set of rules for you.

There would have been criteria for getting selected for an interview for the job you got.  You met that criterion.

Even though you may have thoughts to the contrary, you are able and competent to perform your job.

The impossible expectations and ever-changing goalposts are the ones you set yourself.

They will not be set by an external body, as they would never get past an equality hearing!

“But I know that I am a fraud.  I know that I am incompetent, inadequate and a fake.”

 Okay, I won’t argue with you, but I will help you look at it objectively.

How do you know you are a fraud?  This is not a rhetorical question. I am asking you.  Take a moment and come up with some answers.

Look at your answers.  Are they based on fact or feeling?

Fact:  I know that I am a psychologist.  Proof: I have the Doctorate to prove it.

Feeling:  I am a fraud and will get caught out.

Fact:  My professional body and qualifications state that I am competent to do my job.  No small print states that I have to know a single thing about psychology.

Maybe you are acutely aware of everything that you do not know.  If so, this will put you under untold pressure in your job, and your life.

Every scenario is a chance for failure, a chance to be exposed.

The feelings are not facts.  These come from your view of yourself that is not backed up by the reality of what you have done, what you are doing, and what you are capable of doing.

You do not have to, believe me, start to check it out yourself.

Where does feeling like a fraud and these feelings of inadequacy come from?

From automatic processes in your brain that no longer belong to you.

Your brain relies on automatic processes, as it can really only focus on one thing at a time.  Try it for yourself;

Count to 10 in your head and recite the alphabet backwards simultaneously.

Can’t do it?  Neither can I; it’s just how your brain works.

When you focus on something, everything else does not stand at a standstill.  If you are out driving and thinking about something simultaneously, you do not suddenly stop driving your car.

Your brain allows you to drive on automatic pilot, as it is stored as an automatic process that you can do without too much-focused attention on your part.

Similarly, you can attend to tasks that require your attention, and your brain can simultaneously make you feel inadequate.

It probably started a long time ago.  It didn’t have to be a significant event in your life; it probably was a series of small things.

Anything, at school, at home, with friends, when you were young could have made you embarrassed or feel stupid or not good enough.

If you felt this only once, you probably have no idea what imposter syndrome is – lucky you.  If I were you, I would have known I was not stupid and would not have ended up with 4 degrees under my belt, trying to prove myself!

However, if you are like most people, maybe you felt stupid or inadequate on more than one occasion.  It might have started to play on your mind.  The more time you gave to these thoughts and feelings, the stronger the association became in your brain until it felt like a well-trodden path.

It becomes automatic.  It does not mean that it is real!

Create a new, more reality-based automatic process in your brain.

Take note of the difference between the cold hard facts and feelings of not being good enough.

If you are interested in this subject, you should also have a look at:

Are you smart enough to be anxious?  Read now.

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