‘I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ – Maya Angelou
One thing I love in life is definitions, almost too much, I love it when I hear or read something, and i think ‘oh my god that’s so me’ I’ll be honest, usually it’s the lyrics to a Pink song. One thing that I keep on coming back to, and that not many people seem to know about, is the theory of Impostor Syndrome.
Also known and fraud syndrome or the impostor phenomenon, impostor syndrome isn’t actually classed as a mental disorder or even a distinct personality trait (I tend to disagree on that one) but is something probably 99% of us have suffered from at some point in our lives and is a phenomenon that’s been highly researched.
I genuinely think for me, it is a distinct personalty trait of mine and is something that’s been inbuilt in me since I was born. For me, it’s so much more that simply just a lack of confidence, it’s the constant fear that despite evidence to the contrary I’m convinced i’m a fraud and that i’m going to get exposed in some way.
I’ll be honest most of my feelings of being found out or uncovered as a fraud relate to my work life rather than my home life, i very rarely find myself worried that I’m going to be uncovered as a bad friend or wife however at work I constantly have a feeling of ‘flying under the radar’ and that eventually it’s going to get discovered that I don’t have a scooby doo what i’m doing and will be given the boot. I’m also not good with praise, and if someone pays me a compliment I’ll often tell them why they’re wrong, if if someone likes my top i’ll tell them how it was only 99p on eBay, although I concede that’s less about impostor syndrome and more about me loving a bargain.
I’m a real sucker for over reflection and dwelling on anything i consider myself to have failed at or if I’ve made a mistake and I brush off any success as luck, or good timing. Honestly think to yourself, how often do you find yourself thinking ‘phew got away with that one’ when really you probably didn’t get away with anything, you succeeded because you did the right thing and the right outcome occurred.
If you look into famous people who have admitted to being sufferers, they’re all women, and yes there is a theory that it’s a particular trait of high achieving females (woohoo) I don’t really buy into that all that much because I know my husband, brother and dad all suffer to varying degrees as well, in fact I think i get most of my worried or anxious traits from my dad. I just don’t think men talk about it as much.
So being someone who loves to label themselves I was thrilled when I found out there was a name for all these horrible fraud like feelings I’d felt my whole life, the problem is, having a label on something doesn’t make it go away, sometimes getting what you want isn’t always the best thing in the world, because once you get what you want you then have to figure out what to do with it.
There are a couple of things I try and remember when I’m feeling like a particular big old fat fake to try and feel a bit better about myself:
- If you’ve made a mistake and you’re dwelling on it, all you’re doing is keeping that mistake alive and present. How often do you go home and think about mistakes other people have made at work? What makes you think other people are thinking about you?
- Mistakes are things you’ve done, not who you are. Making a mistake doesn’t make you a fraud, it just makes you wrong.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. As Baz Luhrman says; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself’. Things may be shit right now but they won’t be shit forever.
- Have one person who doesn’t allow you to wallow in self pity. I’m lucky, I have several who encourage and reassure me but also keep me in check when I need it!
If it is not addressed, victims can develop anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, depression, shame and self-doubt
Particularly common in high achieving women
Brushing off praise
Fear of failure
Being self deprecating