Do you ever go to work worrying that you’re a fraud? Are you convinced that people are going to see through you and realise you don’t know what you’re talking about? Are you terrified of failure? 

If so, you’re not alone and the highest achievers are often the ones who worry the most.

Impostor syndrome, sometimes called fraud syndrome, is a psychological problem where successful people are not able to internalise their accomplishments. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer; so this condition doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women. The tendency to downplay and discount success is significant amongst those with imposter syndrome.

Despite evidence in your working life of your competence, are you convinced that you do not deserve the success you have achieved? Do you suffer from chronic self-doubt? ‘Imposters’ dismiss any proof of their success as luck, being in the right place at the right time, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and capable than they are.

Imposter syndrome can negatively affect your career. If you are convinced that you are not up to the job, this can stop you from asserting yourself or taking necessary risks. You can become fixated solely on not making a mistake, rather than being proactive.

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Recognise and write down ‘imposter’ feelings when they arise. This will help to break the cycle of negative thoughts. Often when you’ve written them down, you see the thoughts from a different perspective and can separate yourself from them.

Write a list of your strengths. Keeping track of your accomplishments is a good way to remind yourself that you are not a fraud or a fake. When you're feeling anxious and bad about yourself, have a look at your list. Accomplishments that may have seemed like no big deal at the time often become impressive with a bit of time and a different perspective.

Don’t procrastinate. Leaving things for later will only aggravate your feelings of inadequacy. Deal with issues head on and cross items off your to-do list. Tackle difficult tasks first and you’ll find that once they’re done you’re left with feelings of accomplishment and strength.

Working on these issues is important, but a touch of imposter syndrome can be a good thing. It keeps you humble and focuses you on improving your practice. Without the effects of this syndrome, people can become megalomaniacal and convinced of their own infallibility.

For more career-related articles, go to the Michael Page Career Advice Centre.

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