The Impostor Syndrome – that feeling experienced by otherwise successful and intelligent professionals of not deserving their accomplishments, of somehow having faked their way to success – is a common phenomenon.
I’ve seen research suggesting as many as 70% of professionals have suffered from it at some point in their career. And based on my own executive coaching practice, I’d say that number’s right – and maybe even a bit soft.
Despite its prevalence, the Impostor Syndrome is not often spoken about. Hardly surprising: it’s hard to spot; easy to rationalise; at times, serves us positively; and above all, affects those who are afraid of being found out – so who’d draw attention to it?
Whilst understandable, this is unfortunate because the Impostor Syndrome (unchecked) can be debilitating and have significant negative impact – both on us and our teams. Symptoms include excessive stress, intense fear of failure, performance anxiety and general loss of confidence and which play-out in the workplace as procrastination, perfectionism, indecisiveness, risk aversion, micromanagement and workaholism.
But by learning to internalise accomplishments, challenge limiting beliefs, showcase strengths and cultivate more helpful patterns of thinking, the Impostor Syndrome can be beaten.