At work, do you ever feel that everyone else seems to know exactly what they need to do whilst you are floundering? In the 1970’s psychological research identified a common experience that creates significant anxiety and unease, particularly in the workplace. This experience, often called the Imposter Syndrome, is where people feel that their achievements are a bit of a fluke, and that it is only a matter of time before people find them out. They feel that they are a fraud and not as competent as others around them. We now know that this experience affects men and women equally and can affect up to seventy percent of people.
The imposter experience can be debilitating. Every challenge becomes a threat. Some people deal with it by ‘keeping their head down’ and avoiding progressing any further up the career ladder. Some ‘drop out’ to take on a less demanding job. For many, it is something they can struggle with for years.
What can we do? First of all knowing that this is a very common experience can take the sting out of it. We are not alone. Secondly, trying to understand how it happens can help. All of us can sometimes feel out of our depth and that, let’s face it, a lot of luck can be involved in finding our career path. But, we are the only ones who know our experience. And at the same time we see other people seeming to succeed and do well. As the saying goes, “We compare our insides with other people’s outsides. So, recognise that this is the brain doing its stuff; spotting possible danger, (i.e. being ‘found out’), and keeping you away from it. But you don’t have to listen to everything that your brain tells you.
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