Imposter Syndrome by Liam Rae-McLauchlan
A recent study, reported by Forbes, claims up to 70% of people will experience Imposter Syndrome at some stage in their career – yet, somewhat ironically, we can’t help but feel alone and isolated.
Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone at any time. It can also manifest itself differently in each individual. For some, it might be a constant worry of being pulled aside and told ‘there’s been a mistake’, for others it might be something much bigger.
I have suffered from Imposter Syndrome on and off for years. I started in the IT industry as a graduate, fresh out of university. Things were easy because everyone was in the same boat – deer in headlights, barely keeping our heads above the water – all of those familiar tropes. We supported each other and shared our concerns, struggles and accomplishments. There was a sense of shared growth and belonging. We were all equals.
As time progressed, and we went our separate ways, things became more difficult. I progressed quickly, far quicker than I’d ever expected, and in a little over 5 years found myself leading a team on a major government project. Managing people who had been doing this a lot longer than I had. Surely there had been some mistake – surely there was someone more qualified for this?
Can Imposter Syndrome drive us forward or only hold us back?
For most people, this feeling of “impostorism” passes as time goes on and they settle into new roles or gain more experience. But for others, it can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and have severe impacts on job performance. The constant fear of being found out leads to a reluctance to do anything that might draw attention – including seeking out recognition.
A lot of people have trouble owning their accomplishments and worry they’re not qualified for their jobs despite evidence to the contrary. One example of this is our daily standup – there are days where I feel the work I’ve done is of little value, or people will think I’ve sat around doing nothing all day. Yet in every one of my team members’ updates, my name will be mentioned – thanking me for the hours of assistance I provided that day or reminding me of the work we did together on a shared piece of work. This external recognition and validation is valuable and goes some way to assuage the feeling of impostorism, for me at least.
Surprisingly recognition and promotions can sometimes exacerbate the issue, even when they are more than deserved. People who suffer from Imposter Syndrome can feel increasingly exposed, the more responsibility and influence they have. Sometimes they will avoid or even reject offers of promotion or progression – it’s safer, and easier, to keep your head down.
How can you overcome imposter syndrome?
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome can be hard, especially as asking for help can feel like admitting your deepest fear – that you’re a fraud; unqualified and unworthy of your position.
Seek out trusted peers who can give feedback and help you recognize your accomplishments yourself. Some people find speaking to a therapist can help, while others turn to blogs and articles to share their experiences and thoughts. A good mentor can help, especially one who has been through this themselves.
I am thankful to have a supportive team, and managers, who consistently remind me of the great work we’re doing and make sure I’m aware of my contributions. Even though there are still days I’m convinced someone made a mistake, these are now few and far between.
And there’s nothing more comforting than knowing I’m not alone in feeling like this.
Remember – if you feel like an imposter, you’re in good company. We all feel inadequate at times, we are all human. Try to focus on your successes instead of judging yourself, or comparing yourself to others.
It also pays to remember that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s critically important to build a culture where people are allowed to fail, without blame or judgement. Continuous improvement is key, and regular feedback allows us to grow without fear of feeling like we don’t belong.