Identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose and Suzanne Imes, impostor syndrome is very real.
A significant impediment to climbing the ladder professionally, the infamous syndrome triggers a strange feeling of being a fraud – a combination of anxiety and low self-confidence that pushes women who have it to doubt themselves and their skills and to cast aside their successes. Watch out: we’re talking about women here, but men are not immune.
While some experience it sporadically, like a gust of wind that briefly slows their momentum, others confront it nearly daily.
It’s devious and underhanded and not always easy to detect. It camouflages itself in certain reflexes and thoughts that surge unexpectedly. Here are a few examples.
1.“It’s just luck!”
Words that convey feeling like a fraud. Faced with success, do you sometimes think that your achievement might be due to luck or circumstances rather than your talent?
2. “I’m no expert.”
Are you worried you don’t have the expertise or experience required to accomplish a task or mandate despite obvious signs of intelligence and skill?
3.“It’s so much easier than they think…”
Do you have a hard time responding favourably to congratulations or recognition?
4. “I could have done better.”
Are you a perfectionist? Are you sometimes disappointed by your performance or convinced you could have done a better job?
5. “What if I can’t?”
Do you fear failure, or being unable to maintain a certain performance standard or quality in your work? Are you afraid of making a mistake before even having tried?
6. “They don’t know me.”
Are you haunted by a strange feeling of not being the same person in public as in private?
7. “I hope they’ll like it…”
Do you secretly fear disappointing your colleagues and superiors?
8. “Sophie would be better than me for this project.”
Does that little voice in your head sometimes tell you that you’re not as talented as your coworkers? Despite your expertise, do you end up believing that you lack the experience or abilities to bring a project to fruition?
9. “Don’t congratulate me! It’s all thanks to the team.”
A classic! Do you have a habit of attributing your success to others or external forces?
10. “Me, a boss? No thank you!”
While we don’t all aspire to become managers – and that’s just fine! – have you ever turned down an opportunity or promotion for fear of not being good enough?
Are these thoughts part of your life?
Most people feel doubt at different times in their careers. It’s completely normal. The most important thing is not to let your worries and insecurities overwhelm you to the point of paralysis.
While impostor syndrome is widespread – it affects 70% of professionals at least once in their life – it’s vital to identify it early and develop good reflexes to overcome it.