Do you have imposter syndrome?
Have you experienced it recently?
And what is the big deal about it?
Is it a problem?
Firstly, let’s try and describe what imposter syndrome is, in essence it is doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It is the internal experience of intellectual phoniness, it’s that feeling when you think you are going to be found out, often thinking we are only where we are because of luck or misjudgment by others.
The term was first used by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, they called it ‘imposter phenomenon’, they wrote a paper entitled ‘The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic’ in 1978. When the concept of imposter syndrome was introduced, it was originally thought to apply mostly to high-achieving women. Since then, it has been recognised as more widely experienced, it can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.
My view on it, is that it is healthy to have imposter syndrome, in fact if you are growing as a person it is part of the process. This is the re frame and where I turn it on its head, since I think we get so caught up with imposter syndrome we start to create unhealthy narratives that we live out and are creating self-fulfilling prophecies.
Here is why this re frame works. As you start to learn something new and go towards a bigger mission of you; or try out something you have never done before; or get into a leadership position or situation that is unknown; we are bound to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Since new things or changes makes us uncomfortable, and when you feel uncomfortable you may also doubt yourself. Which in turn can become that dreaded imposter syndrome feeling, doubt and phony feelings, and then we spiral.
Well in fact, when we are uncomfortable, it's a sign we are starting a growth process, so if the imposter syndrome starts to creep in, then this too is a sign of growth and a sign of you pushing the boundaries in your life, it is to be expected. And if it is to be expected, then we just acknowledge it, accept it as part of the process and move on. It becomes fuel to further growth and expansion of a better version of ourselves.
There’s a saying that growth doesn’t happen inside your comfort zone, and that's true. Take building strength in a muscle, for instance. If we never push ourselves to work that muscle and create some tension, there will be no growth.
So, embrace imposter syndrome as a sign to indicate that you are pushing yourself and are outside of your comfort zone which is where you will experience your growth.