This week I saw quite a few students who have been wrestling with:
"..... I am not good enough - to apply for a PhD, my dream placement or propose an idea to my group"
This made me reflect on the concept of Inposter Syndrome where an individual struggles to credit their success to their ability. Rather they see their success as being lucky or working harder than others. This is further compounded by the person assuming that at any moment others will see through the facade and know they are not as talented. Reading Jo Haigh's post brought home to me that no one is safe from feeling like a fraud - regardless of achievement or fame.
Half of the female managers surveyed by the Institute of Leadership Management reported self-doubt in their ability compared to men. In my mind this is in part down to the fact that there are fewer female role models and the ones that have made it there have, in the past, often had to take on masculine characteristics. This is one of the reasons why the Careers Service is hosting the Sprint Development programme aimed at female undergraduates, bringing together successful women from industry to talk about their careers.
In addition to participating in personal development training, what else can you do to manage imposter syndrome? The first step is to understand a rather obvious truth: nobody can see inside anyone else’s head. So your inner monologue – the voice that keeps on telling you 'you’re not good enough' – is the only one you ever hear which means your reasoning is a tad skewed.
Have a look at the traits below, do they apply to you?
- Ignoring compliments
- Assuming everything in your life will self-destruct for no reason
- You feel a compulsion to be the best
- Letting self doubt become a constant fixture
- Fear of failure can paralyse you
- You focus on what you haven't done
- You don't think you're good enough
It may also be comforting to know you aren't alone in your thinking. These tweets compiled by the Huffington Post really do capture the fact that imposter syndrome does not discriminate and when it rears its ugly head, we can be pretty irrational in our thinking. If left untamed, imposter syndrome can negatively affect your academic studies and professional career.
So how do we keep a lid on imposter syndrome?
- Recognise it: If you hear yourself say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “It was just luck,” pause and note that you are having impostor syndrome thoughts. Self awareness is the first step to tackling imposter syndrome.
- You are not alone: Imposter syndrome’s so common that, if you tell a friend or colleague about your self-doubt, they’ll almost certainly reply by telling you they feel the same.
- Get objective: keep reminders of success to hand! Be it your CV or that 'well done' email from your manager when you were on placement. All these will hopefully remind you of your self-worth.
- Accept and give compliments: for one day, give meaningful compliments to your friends or colleagues and see how they respond. If they deflect, call them out. Likewise, accept every compliment you receive, simply say 'Thank you'.
Finally, accept that everyone everywhere—no matter how successful—experiences the self-doubt that underlies impostor syndrome. It is part and parcel of becoming accomplished and successful. There is nothing unusual or wrong about feeling these things. Leave no cognitive space for them to grow, and you will regain control of your life and your future.