Have you ever wondered why you feel undeserving of what you’ve accomplished? Why you think you’re not good enough to be doing your work? Is there a little voice at the back of your head making you doubt everything you’ve worked for? Well, you may have impostor syndrome.
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What is Impostor Syndrome?
The idea of the impostor phenomenon, or impostor syndrome, was initially introduced by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.
In their paper, they focused on academically high-achieving women who, despite their success, considered themselves inferior to their male peers. Clance says that these women do “not experience an internal sense of success”, and “maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent; in fact, they are convinced that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”
Further, and more recent, research has shown that impostor syndrome can affect individuals of all genders, and sufferers are generally defined as people “who are unable to internalize and accept their success”.
Entrepreneurship and Impostor Syndrome
Entrepreneurs, and business owners, are more likely to suffer with impostor syndrome for the simple fact that their jobs are based on confidence, belief in themselves, and other people’s perceptions of them.
If you’re an entrepreneur, and you start doubting yourself, your abilities, your results, you may end up missing opportunities you would have taken head-on had your self-confidence been higher.
How to Recognise Impostor Syndrome (in Yourself)
Many patterns have been observed when it comes to what afflicts people with impostor syndrome. Do you see yourself in any of these behaviours?
- You need to feel special or the best;
- You set higher expectations for yourself than you would for others;
- Any small mistake you make immediately makes other achievements irrelevant;
- Meeting 99% of your goals isn’t enough, 100% feels like the bare minimum to you.
- You feel the need to push yourself harder than others;
- Other people’s achievements feel valid, while yours don’t;
- If you need to ask for help, you consider yourself a failure;
- You have to do everything perfectly and by yourself;
- If you’re not accomplishing something, you feel stressed.
Fear of Failure
- You’d rather not do anything at all if it isn’t going to be perfect;
- You avoid asking questions or speaking in meetings, just in case you sound stupid;
- You don’t apply to jobs if you don’t feel you match the qualifications completely;
- What you know is never enough, you need more certifications or skills;
- You tend to overwork and exhaust yourself to meet your own standards.
Denial of Ability and Discounting Praise
- You don’t like to receive compliments;
- Positive feedback doesn’t feel genuine;
- Your achievements never seem as good as they should be;
- You don’t know how people believe you made it by yourself;
- You think you got to where you are because your abilities have been overestimated.
Guilt of Succeeding
- You feel like your position should have gone to someone better than you;
- You’re not convinced you deserve what you’ve accomplished;
- You think there are people who are still struggling and are probably smarter and more talented than you.
In 1985, Clance published a test to determine whether an individual suffers from impostor syndrome, the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS), which you can take and score yourself.
How to Deal With Impostor Syndrome
Talk to People
Speak with your mentors and your superiors, their experience and perspective might make you look at yourself and your path differently. Confide in your friends! They’ll let you know if you’re deceiving yourself. And try therapy: you might think it’s the go-to solution for everything nowadays, but it can prove to be very successful.
Recognise, Understand, Question
If you recognise your own negative bias, you may be able to discard it more easily. Realise that you’re definitely not the only one feeling this way, that talent and intelligence aren’t objective, and that everyone else is not better than you. Ask yourself if your thoughts and feelings are justified, why you are feeling like this – are you thinking objectively or believing the self-doubt?
Give Yourself Credit
When someone asks for your help, don’t just say “Oh, I don’t know, sorry” if you actually do – trust your knowledge and help them. Recognise the things you do well, try to look at the things you’ve accomplished from an outside perspective, evaluate your work as if it were someone else’s, and recognise where you’re doing well and where there’s a genuine need for improvement, not just some voice in your head telling you to be better.
Breathe, Relax, Take a Break
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. It’s better to stop for fifteen minutes and allow yourself a new perspective. Try one such as writing a list of your strengths, achievements, rave reviews others have given you, and refer to it when you need to renew your self-esteem.
Entrepreneurs may find themselves thinking that they don’t deserve what they have. Allow yourself to care for your mental (and physical) health. After all, a healthy businessperson is a happier and more successful businessperson.