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 if you read on, you will possibly recognize yourself, with what I am about to say.
“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 actually use the words “you are a fraud, and you will get caught out?”
So what is going on?
Many successful people are plagued with self doubt, and genuinely believe that they are a fraud; an imposter. Feeling not good enough, can motivate people like you, to achieve really good things. Everyone else can see it, except you.
Imposter Syndrome is a term used when people are not able to see the accomplishments they have made in life and attribute them to their own success.
When reading this, you might recognize it in other people, but not in yourself.
You really are a fraud and terrified that one day the people you care about, or respect, will see that you are a fake, and do not deserve the respect that is 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 a fake, keep reading, as maybe by the end of this, you might just change your mind.
The thoughts you have about yourself do not match up with the 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 as he was experiencing anxiety, and it was affecting his work.
He sat down, and found it easy to tell me about his short comings, his failures, his inadequacies. He spoke at length about how he was letting his family down.
During the course of our first meeting I discovered he had a PhD from Oxford and was an extremely successful international business man. Extremely successful in other people’s eyes, except his; he was a fraud.
I was astounded by his academic record, it really blew me away. Not only in academia, this man was talented across the board. He ticked every single box, and then some.
He thought he was stupid, and was 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 put it to him, that in order 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, 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 who have imposter syndrome are convinced that they do not deserve the success that they have achieved.
Rather 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 very clear the reason for his anxiety.
He felt inadequate, not good enough, lived with the fear of being found out.
He worried going into meetings, giving presentations and making conference calls. Ironically, he excelled at this (not in his eyes) as he always over prepared, in case he should be asked a question that he did not have the answer for 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 need to be open to some cold hard facts.
If you have not been sacked from your job, and maybe have had a promotion; you are competent.
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 special set of rules for you.
The job you got, there would have been a criteria to get selected for interview. You met that criteria.
Even though you may have thoughts to the contrary, you are able and competent to perform the job you are doing.
The impossible expectations and ever changing goal posts are the ones you set yourself.
They will not be set by an external body, as they would never get passed 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 the fact with you, but I will help you to 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. There is no small print stating that I have to know every 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, your life.
Every scenario is a chance for failure, a chance to be exposed.
The feelings are not fact. There come from your own 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, just start to check it out for yourself.
Where does feeling like a fraud and these feelings of inadequacy come from?
From automatic processes in your brain, that no longer belong with 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 at the same time.
Can’t do it? Neither can I, it’s just how your brain works.
When you focus your attention on something, everything else does not come to a standstill. If you are out driving and thinking about something at the same time, you do not suddenly stop driving your car.
Your brain allows to you drive on automatic pilot, as it is stored as a automatic process that you can do, without too much focused attention on your part. (You can read more on habits here. This link will take you to a program, but scroll down to Your Anxious Brain)
In a similar way, you can attend to tasks that require all of your attention, and your brain can make you feel inadequate at the same time.
It probably started a long time ago. It didn’t have to be a big 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!
Start to 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:
Perfectionism. Read now.
Are you smart enough to be anxious. Read now.