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Impostor syndrome: why it's necessary for us to open up about self-doubt

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If you have ever felt like a fraud for not being capable enough, talented enough or in any way good enough for the position you are in, you are not alone.

Impostor syndrome, as it is often called, affects one third of millennials in the workplace. Particularly common amongst high-achieving people with perfectionist tendencies, the phenomenon sees a vast number of people severely underestimating themselves and their abilities.

Woman

The feeling of being an impostor, undeserving of praise and success, can be persistent and potentially harmful. With such a great proportion of us battling with low self-esteem and intense self-criticism, it can have adverse effects on our abilities to work effectively and healthily.

Whilst impostor syndrome can drive some people to do better and achieve more through the fear of being “found out”, it also has the potential to be detrimental to success, leading others to risk overworking and burning out.

When living with impostor syndrome, it can become easy to believe that any personal successes have been achieved through sheer luck, deception or circumstance. These thoughts can become all-consuming, controlling your behaviour and distorting your sense of self-worth.

It was previously assumed that impostor syndrome predominately affects high-achieving women. However, the notion that it affects women more than men has largely been discredited as it is now viewed as a human, not female, phenomenon.

The societal pressures for men to appear unwaveringly masculine and self-assured leads to a damaging assumption that it is shameful for men to express self-doubt. As a result, the extent to which men can suffer the effects of impostor syndrome has been overlooked until recently.

Considering how very common it is to experience elements of impostor syndrome, it is necessary that everybody feels able to speak about their issues with self-esteem and feelings of being a fraud.

Man

From the outside, people with impostor syndrome can seem completely capable, confident and in control as they receive recognition and maintain top results. Yet, it is vital to remember that appearances can be deceiving, and by making assumptions that those around you are much more self-assured than yourself, without fully knowing the reality, it can perpetuate a vicious circle.

When I was first told that I had impostor syndrome, I struggled to understand or believe it; I heard it as somebody’s polite way of trying to make me feel better about my weaknesses. Yet, with time, I have begun to recognise the similarities between my own unhealthy thought patterns and those associated with impostor syndrome.

Having previously misperceived my perfectionism and committed work ethic as strengths, I had been unknowingly harbouring a dangerous habit of harsh self-criticism, seeing anything less than perfect as inadequate.

As I began to open up about my insecurities and my persistent fear of being “found out”, it became increasingly clear that the way that I was feeling was nothing to be ashamed of.

Impostor syndrome is incredibly common, but rarely seems to be openly discussed and addressed. We should all be able to open up about self-doubt, and we should all be able to feel deserving of praise and success. By talking about insecurities and fears of being "caught out", it can hopefully prevent the potential negative effects of the phenomenon and it can be hugely beneficial to self-esteem.

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