While many of us know what we deserve and of our capabilities, many of us end up undermining ourselves. Have you ever looked at a job posting and thought to yourself that it’s beyond your reach, even though you have the right experience for it? Have you ever stayed in a job you had long outgrown because you thought you couldn’t do better? Have you ever felt under-confident about the tasks assigned to you?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may have what is called the imposter syndrome. A 2019 study titled Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine says people with Impostor syndrome are “high-achieving individuals who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or impostor.”
The study clarifies that imposter syndrome is not clinically recognised as a mental disorder but is widely discussed in the context of workplace performance.
Causes of imposter syndrome
A 2020 research titled Contextualizing the Impostor “Syndrome” published in Frontiers In Psychology offers great insight into the subject of imposter syndrome and explains what possibly results in the same.
Here are a few causes of imposter syndrome:
· Negative and critical self-concept.
· One’s position in the social hierarchy and negative stereotyping.
· A lack of representation of one’s demographic and social group and lower compensation at work.
· Basing your self-worth on the quality of treatment you receive from others, especially your managers and colleagues.
Signs you may be experiencing imposter syndrome
Anyone can be experiencing imposter syndrome. Are you wondering if you are going through the same? Here are a few signs.
· You attribute your achievements to luck than your own abilities
· You often settle for less, when it comes to salary negotiation and position
· You are afraid to ask for a raise or promotion, wondering if you deserve it
· You find it hard to accept compliments on your work
· You feel afraid that you are not performing well or lack the skills required to do so
· You fear that your company will find you to be less efficient and capable than you appear
How to overcome imposter syndrome?
Several studies suggest that imposter syndrome can result in deteriorating job performance and also burnout. It may also act as an obstacle between you and the kind of growth you truly deserve in your career. If you are going through it, fret not, for you can combat it. Here are a few tips.
Make a list of your achievements: “The situation in which individuals may feel they do not deserve the success they have at work could potentially result out of their past experiences where their confidence has been undermined by significant others. Being raised in an environment that values achievement above all else can be a contributing factor,” explains Kamna Chhibber, Head - Mental Health, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.
Make a list of all your achievements, big or small. And really think about how you got those things done, how you achieved your goals and keep reminding yourself until you believe it.
Ask for feedback: We tend to presume that we are not performing well. However, instead of doing that, ask for feedback from your manager. This will help you understand your merits as well as aspects you can improve. “Create support systems at the workplace,” Chhibber advises. Approach self-criticism more productively and strive for more but do not undermine what already is.
Note down your skills: Make a note of skills you possess that make you an asset. Then plan how you can use those to achieve your goals. It will make you feel positive about yourself. “Use failures as stepping stones to build skills,” Chhibber suggests. You can then go on to note down skills you’d like to develop, and continue to work on yourself, but with your self-confidence restored.
Don’t compare yourself with others: “It is often also linked to personality factors such as being perfection driven or the individuals may be more anxious and worried than others, have pervasive doubts and be overly self-critical,” Chhibber explains. All of us bring something different to the table, and while being inspired by someone can be productive, feeling small can do just the opposite. Take inspiration, learn a skill someone else possesses if you admire it. But appreciate your own skillset too. You have what it takes to excel in what you were hired for. And you can always upskill yourself while you are at it.
Seek unbiased perspective: Sometimes, a lack of appreciation and trust from your manager can make you feel small. You wonder, if you have so much experience, why are they not giving you the kind of work you deserve. You wonder, why they are not utilising your capabilities. It can be an institutional problem. Seek an unbiased perspective of someone who knows you, your work and your work ethic. Speak to your manager about how you feel, if that is feasible.
You can also seek professional help and therapy to deal with the imposter syndrome.
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