The Imposter Syndrome refers to high achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Clance has since said that calling it a syndrome was incorrect, and that today she actually refers to it as the Imposter Phenomenom, because it is so common.
In her initial research, she concluded that it was more common for women since success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalised self evaluation. More recently, however, it has been found that nearly everyone is affected by it in dozens of demographic groups, not just high achieving women.
Some ways that it shows itself are:
- comparing yourself to others, but you are not equal to them. Often experienced by high achievers in their fields or peer groups
- feeling like your success is due to luck
- feeling foolish or uncomfortable describing your achievements
- not deserving or worthy or smart enough, haven't earned your stripes
- I'll get found out
- if people praise or congratulate me, I feel like I'm getting away with something
- don't feel like success will come or last
- don't feel like previous successes prove anything
In her book, The secret thoughts of successful women: why capable people suffer from the imposter syndrome and how to thrive in spite of it, author Valerie Young identified 5 types of imposter.
Perfectionist "I should have done better, mistakes are unacceptable" - never being good enough
Expert "if I were naturally smart, I would know everything that there is to know" - feeling completely unqualified
Natural Genius "if I were really smart, this would be effortless" - if they have to work hard, they are no good
Superhero - "if I were really competent, I'd be able to do it all" - they feel underserving
Rugged Individualist - "the only achievement that really matters is the the one I got myself" - any task that has had a helping hand, isn't really achieved at all
Now, I don't know about you, but I have been able to relate to pretty much every single one of the points above at some time. In fact, the photo above was taken 3 years ago when my Business Addicts co-host, Loren Bartley and I did an interview with Jacqui Mitchell and Warwick Merry on the topic of Imposter Sydnrome at RRPFM in Mornington. It may not look like it in the photo, and I am not joking when I say this - but I actually felt like an imposter talking about imposter syndrome because who was I to be talking about that, who was I to have anything of any value to be contributing to that conversation, and I totally did not deserve to be there. OH THE IRONY. The imposter not feeling qualified to talk about feeling like an imposter, because she was an imposter. How crazy is that.
In my (very extensive) experience of smashing into this feeling of imposter, the only way through is to accept that experiencing the imposter syndrome is a totally normal part of experiencing success. Keep affirming your success. Surround yourself with champions and talk openly and honestly to them about your fears and struggles. When we start to expose this stuff, it starts to lose it's power over us. And keep working on the belief systems that are being highlighted along the way - don't accept them as the truth. Start believing that your decision is the correct one and take action on it. Don't let the imposter syndrome stop you from taking action. And then - have fun as you start to smash through it.
Next week on The Happiness Hunter Podcast, I'm going to be sharing my story about creating the podcast and how the imposter syndrome showed up for me (and how it has shown up for me time and time again) and what I did to move through it. Make sure you subscribe here so you don't miss it.
But in the meantime, you can listen to an episode on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome that I recently did with Lyndal Harris on the Podcasting Tips & Tricks podcast. You can listen here.
Although it is not real, when you are right in it, it feels real. And the only way through, is through.
Hello! I'm Fiona Redding, founder of The Happiness Hunter, mindset coach, speaker and facilitator. I am passionate about helping you get clear on what you want for your life and business and providing practical and grounded guidance, support and accountability to help you achieve your goals. I produce and host The Happiness Hunter Podcast, co-host the Business Addicts podcast and have published a book called The Happiness Hunter's Guide to Meditation.
Please get in touch to take the next step in mastering your mindset and transforming your life and business.