You have been there. You know the feeling. That moment when you are panicking, knowing that everyone will accuse you saying, “You fake! What are you doing here?”. As alone and scared you might feel, it is not that uncommon for one to experience such feeling at least once in one's lifetime.
More than 50% of people in the tech industry suffer from Imposter Syndrome. For some, it can be a short-lasting, one-time experience, like joining a new job, a career switch, or a new promotion. But, for others, this feeling may follow them around for most of their adult lives.
"In our society, there's a huge pressure to achieve. There can be a lot of confusion between approval and love and worthiness. Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving."
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome or more accurately called "imposter phenomenon", is a term coined in the late 1970s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. People with Imposter Syndrome always feel like they are faking it. They feel like an intellectual and professional fraud. They don’t think they deserve the things that they have achieved. Even if someone does point out that things are good for them, they will most probably credit it to luck or other such phenomenon. They will constantly magnify their negatives and minimize their positive achievements. In a way, they are their worst critic. This can lead to difficulty in developing a realistic self-image.
People with Imposter Syndrome are constantly worried that they might not live up to other’s expectations. This may lead them to either work extra hard or not try at all so that they will have an excuse if they fail. They are always worried about being found out. Or being revealed as a “fraud”. This prevents them to reach their potential, and most of the times hamper their career and mental health.
What causes it?
Even though several factors can cause imposter syndrome, some of the things that can trigger it are:
Facing a new challenge: A new job, a new promotion, a change in career can trigger imposter syndrome.
Having a “smart” sibling: Growing up with an over-achiever can make someone develop the feeling of inadequacy.
Being tagged as the “smart kid”: People who have been told in their childhood that they are better than other kids in terms of intelligence or other factors might develop imposter syndrome when they face the struggles and realities of life inevitably.
How to deal with it?
Some of the things that can help someone overcome imposter syndrome are :
Focus on providing value to others: One of the things that people with imposter syndrome tend to focus on most is themselves. They are constantly worried about themselves.
One of the things that can help reduce it is to try genuinely to provide value to others, to help others. That can be tough as one can have to worry about being ridiculed or made fun of. But that risk is far better than keeping inside this constant anxiety and self-doubt.
Keep track of your achievement: People with imposter syndrome tend to minimize and even forget their achievements. It can be reassuring to see their achievements written down in paper. That can help them feel positive about their success as it provides proof of their contribution and achievements.
Accept the reality: Human beings are flawed. There is no such thing as perfection. Accepting the fact that no one is perfect and that challenges and struggles are inevitable in life can lead one to be happy, content and at ease with one’s life.
Most people at some point in their lives face failure and that can lead to feeling like an imposter. But it is good to remember that one's thoughts do not reflect reality. Just because one has the perception of a total failure doesn’t mean that it is the actual case.
Being content with one’s situation, accepting the fact that life is full of failures, and celebrating one’s success, no matter how small it is, can be helpful.
If the person cannot deal with the symptoms on his own, then it can be helpful to seek help from a mental health professional.