If you’ve ever felt like a fraud at work, or had some sort of professional success dampened by the voice in your head suggesting you don’t actually deserve it – well, join the club.
It looks like you’re in the throes of Impostor Syndrome, and hey, you’re far from alone.
The condition, coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, refers to a “psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments… despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.”
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this. And no, we promise won’t spam you.
Turns out, these pesky feelings of inadequacy affect more of us than previously thought: a recent study found 70 per cent of people will suffer from it at some stage and, unsurprisingly, women are more at risk – with two-thirds likely to experience this in the last 12 months.
The good news is, a new study has inched us closer to understanding why it occurs and the best (and worst) ways in which we can overcome it.
Researchers surveyed 213 students in an elite academic program and found about 20 per cent had strong feelings of impostorism. Students were also quizzed on their coping mechanisms, which revealed varying levels of success. The most effective, they found, was seeking social support from someone outside of their immediate environment.
In other words, reaching for support within the same major often made them feel worse.
Applying this more broadly suggests that those who suffer from Impostor Syndrome at work are better to seek support from friends and family, rather than colleagues.
Jeff Bednar, study co-author and Brigham Young University professor, explained that people outside their social group helped students to gain perspective, “see the big picture and recalibrate”.
“After reaching outside their social group for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt they lacked in just one area,” he continued.
By contrast, video games and pretending everything was fine (when it wasn’t) were found to be the worst coping mechanisms.
Fascinatingly, the study found no link between performance and Impostor Syndrome. Something to remember next time you start to question yourself…