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What Is Impostor Syndrome?

Kaitlin Broderick LCPC

Do you ever feel like you are an impostor at your job and someone is going to come in and recognize that you are a fraud at any moment? This is actually an extremely common phenomenon that people of all ages experience at some point or other in their life and is called impostor syndrome. It encompasses a pervasive belief that you don’t belong or are unqualified for what you are doing and someone is going to find out at any moment. This can manifest at a new job or even while studying for a degree. For some people, it can even prevent them from applying to certain jobs. It includes a nagging self-doubt that everyone else knows more than you do. The helpful thing to remember about impostor syndrome is that the majority of people feel it at one point or another in their life, yet everyone suffers in silence and doesn’t talk about it leading us to think we are the only ones experiencing it. 

People that tend to be perfectionists are more prone to experiencing impostor syndrome due to having high unrealistic expectations of themselves. People that have more perfectionistic tendencies tend to think if they make one mistake, this means they are a failure. They also feel like they need to have everything figured out on their own and don’t like to ask for help. There are a number of reasons why impostor syndrome occurs. It can be a result of parents who put a lot of pressure on their kids or children who grew up hearing the message that they aren’t good enough. This is isn’t always the case though as sometimes people who were raised in supportive families still develop it as a kind of internal pressure that they alone put on themselves. Impostor syndrome can also be seen as a normal reaction to a society that emphasizes success, comparison to others, and always pushing yourself harder. 

Recognizing that others also struggle silently with this can be one helpful way of combating it. Although you may not want to talk about this issue with coworkers, sometimes bringing it up to a friend can be helpful in seeing that you aren’t the only one who struggles with this. Reminding yourself as well that your supervisor probably felt this way at one time or another can also help to put things into perspective. 

Another way to combat impostor syndrome is to look at the evidence. Is there any direct evidence that you aren’t doing your job well or are unqualified? Chances are if you really were doing a poor job at work someone would have let you know already. It can also be helpful to write out your achievements and see them on paper. Oftentimes we focus so much on what is negative that we discount what is positive.

The last way to combat this is to recognize that you’re buying into a story that your mind is telling you. You can ask yourself, what do I get for buying into this thought that I’m not good enough? Remember you don’t have to and shouldn’t buy into every thought your mind tells you. Also, remind yourself that you are using black and white thinking. Making a mistake at work doesn’t make you incompetent at your job or mean you are a failure. You can instead look at your mistakes as feedback for what you can do differently next time. 

Remember that you are at your job for a reason! The people who hired you obviously think you are qualified for the job, or they would have found someone else to do it. If this is something that you are really struggling with, then you may find it beneficial to seek the help of a licensed therapist. Contact Symmetry to meet with one of our dedicated Chicago counselors today.

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