We all have it; the nagging self doubt that plagues us, just when we think we’re doing well. The voice that says you’re not good enough and that things won’t work out. That you’re a bad parent, partner or friend. It can be a crippling force that causes mental health issues, crushes dreams, and damages relationships – but it’s got a name. Imposter Syndrome. Commit those two words to memory and never forget them.
Imposter Syndrome will tell you that you’re a fraud and you don’t belong where you are. It’ll whisper menacingly that ‘you’re going to get found out’ – then the game will be up. But who’s game are you playing, exactly?
The term ‘imposter syndrome’ was coined in 1978 in a study by Georgia State University, uncovering the fact that many successful women suffered with extreme self-doubt. The report went on to say, “women who experience the impostor phenomenon maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent; in fact, they are convinced that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” Even though these feelings are much more prevalent in women, they also affect a lot of men.
Astonishingly, the report outlined that those who suffered with this syndrome often worked much harder than others, so they wouldn’t be ‘found out’. This then leads to more praise and success, which feeds the imposter feelings, and the cycle begins all over again.
We’re not alone though – even the incredible Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, has said, “there are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.” And she’s not alone – one of my favourite authors, Maya Angelou, wrote “each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. 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.”
Rather than let imposter syndrome be a weakness, turn the doubt into a strength; use it to review and question your goals and ambitions, and keep them in check. If today is one of those days, know that you’re good enough, and you’re doing just fine.