Do you feel like you’re not good enough to get the job you want, or that you don’t deserve the job that you currently have? You may feel like, despite your training and education, you are truly “faking it,” just waiting to be found out. If so, you may be experiencing what researchers call imposter syndrome.
What You Need to Know
Imposter syndrome is the idea that you have only achieved your success due to luck; you doubt your accomplishments and feel you will be exposed for your lack of experience and expertise. Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first coined this term in 1978. According to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, “an estimated 70 percent of people experience these impostor [sic] feelings at some point in their lives.” This imposter syndrome affects new graduates as well as seasoned professionals in high up leadership roles. While it is not a clinical diagnosis, imposter syndrome does cause significant issues for people and can lead to feeling anxious in certain situations. You can imagine that constantly feeling like you are going to be exposed as a “fraud” could generate feelings of anxiety. While originally the research surrounding imposter syndrome was conducted on women, they have found that this phenomenon affects both men and women.
An Expert Opinion
I reached out to Bailey Thompson, LPC, LAC, a young professional who both owns her own therapeutic private practice and works in a mental health agency (and has for five years!) to get her personal and professional opinions on imposter syndrome. According to Thompson, she has dealt with it on a professional level but also struggled with it in her own life.
“I can definitely relate to this experience personally,” she said. “This was especially true as a new therapist. My confidence has definitely grown and I feel much less like a fraud than I did before.” In her life, Thompson felt that she wasn’t good enough to have the career she did—where she counseled clients for a fee. “I think this was especially prevalent in private practice because there was this ‘fee’ associated with those services and the question of ‘am I worth it?’ I think this is especially true for women in the workforce—especially in leadership roles—and can hold women back from asking for that promotion or applying for a new job,” she explained. “I think it's really indicative of the gender disparity and social norms.”
How to Combat Imposter Syndrome
So what should you do if you experience these feelings? Acknowledge them! Many therapeutic models believe that it is not necessarily what happens to you that is important but rather your perception of what it was that happened.
Our thoughts are incredibly powerful in our lives. Think about a specific thought and consider if it is serving you well. If it is not—as in telling you that you’re a fraud or imposter—work on reframing those thoughts. The difference between people who experience imposter syndrome and those who don’t is simply their attitude and beliefs about themselves.
So, when those thoughts start to creep in, refute them and think about all of the ways in which you are qualified. By being mindful and practicing positive thoughts, you are sure to see an improvement in how you view yourself and your career.
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