Revealing 7 Facts About Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is something that can affect you in life and especially in business – in fact, Forbes magazines wrote about the syndrome in 2014, explaining it’s the fear of being “found out” that you’re not as competent as people think you are.

The source goes on to explains that even top executives and successful actors have these kinds of thoughts once in a while, and notes that up to 70-percent of the population has suffered from this syndrome at some point. “Apart from serial narcissists, super low achievers and outright crazies, no one is immune to the self-doubt that feeds Impostor Syndrome,” notes the source. Let’s take a closer look at seven facts about it…

1. You Believe You’re a Fraud

The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada notes this is a psychological syndrome that can even affect graduate students. The kicker is that those who have achieved some level of success are the most vulnerable to this phenomenon – “It is based on intense, secret feelings of fraudulence in the face of success and achievement,” notes the university.

You believe you have somehow cheated your way onto the podium, and at any minute the floor will open up below you. Basically, you don’t feel like you deserve your success, even when you’ve worked hard for it, notes the source.

2. It’s More Common in Women notes the “impostor” phenomenon was first coined by psychologists in a 1978 paper, entitled The Imposter Phenomenon In High Achieving Women. The same source notes a more recent internal survey by Hewlett Packard seems to back up that this is a female-centric problem.

What does this mean for women? The source explains that because more women feel like a fraud (even though they’re not), they’re less likely to apply for jobs that they don’t believe they are a perfect match for. This is in contrast to men, who will apply for a position even when they’re only a 60-percent match, according to the source.

3. You Believe Success Came Too Easily notes that some people with impostor syndrome may feel like they didn’t have to work hard enough to achieve what they have, especially if they were born into privilege. “We were given an opportunity that others weren’t. And so nothing we achieve after that opportunity was actually deserved,” the source offers as a common belief among those with the syndrome.

Lifehacker explains that many people are given a headstart in some form, but still manage to mess up their path and not achieve success. With that in mind, you should remember it still took effort on your part to be where you are. “You said yes when you could have said no (or perhaps in a more challenging situation, you said no when you could have said yes),” it notes.

4. You Reject Compliments says people with impostor syndrome have a particularly hard time accepting praise or “internalizing their success,” and often discount the compliments as invalid.

The sufferers may have not believe themselves to be worthy of praise, especially if they’re given a pat on the back in the company of others. “It isn’t a display of false modesty. They truly don’t believe they deserve the due credit they are being given,” notes the source.

5. Writing Down Achievements Can Help notes you should remind yourself of your hard work and achievements to get where you are. That means writing down any accomplishments at work – even if they seem small – and posting them somewhere you can see them.

The same source notes if you’re not comfortable having a list posted at your workplace, you could build the list of positive things in your phone and review it each morning before you go into the office. Set an alert on your phone if you need to be reminded.

6. It Has Been Categorized explains an expert on the subject (Valerie Young) has actually broken down the syndrome into five subcategories: The perfectionist, the superwoman/man, the natural genius, the rugged individualist, and the expert.

“Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand,” notes the article, adding that perfectionists tend to set the bar so high and worry too much when they don’t clear it. Other types, like the “superwoman,” involve people staying later at the office to achieve more and putting their hobbies to the side, it adds. Meanwhile, the “natural genius” bases their success on their abilities rather than efforts. “In other words, if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it,” it explains.

7. You Can Seek Outside Help also notes that connecting with a mentor can be useful in “feeling more competent” – and you can also become a mentor yourself, and may surprise yourself what you can teach someone coming up the ranks.

Meanwhile, if the feelings you’re having are becoming debilitating, then you shouldn’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional, adds the source. A professional can “help you identify strategies that can help you start seeing yourself in the same light that others see you,” it adds.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.