Imposter Syndrome, as it was initially called, was thought to be a mental disorder suffered only by high-achieving women pushing professional limits. But are you actually experiencing it?
I mean, it wasn’t all that long ago that women were “allowed” to get post-doctorates and wear red lipstick, at the same time.
Imposter Syndrome’s Name Sake
In the late 1970s, Dr. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes published a paper on this syndrome affecting “high achieving women.” Truly, until then, no one had identified this phenomenon, and even then, it was assumed it was a female-only problem.
As soon as this research hit the academic world, everyone started stepping forward.
The more these psychologists discussed and researched this “syndrome,” the more everyone from political leaders to corporate executives to celebrities validated this same experience – they felt it too.
And guess what, it affects men. People of all ages. People of all levels of success. And especially the people you look up to.
People who experience the imposter phenomenon, “persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the imposter belief.”
Did you pay attention to the “high achieving” component of this individual? Who has the time, and especially the energy, to incorporate all of the above (worrying —> over-preparing) when you’re aiming to be the best or at-least very good at your professional and personal endeavors?!
No one. It’s exhausting, disappointing and leaves us feeling frazzled and unfocused. It’s a huge problem. And we all experience it. But what we don’t all do is let feeling like an imposter hold us back or even ruin an event.
What Does Imposter Syndrome Feel Like
Here’s the thing about being deeply concerned that you don’t deserve your success, your place in life, or even allow the small hope that maybe things will be ok…….You can’t talk about this shameful fear.
That is how they will discover you, so this worry starts to eat away at every part of your life.
Some of us don’t even recognize our imposterism. We simply accept this anxious reality, and torture our selves by trying to keep up the no-fear façade.
Chances are, everyone else perceives us as strong and more than capable.
So we don’t talk about it. We suffer in silence. We read articles about feeling this sensation *ahem*, study the concept of imposter syndrome, and we shake our heads.
Those poor successful people who don’t get it. How sad for them. But how much sadder for us, since we are failures and it’s only a matter of time until everyone knows.
We can’t even allow ourselves to celebrate our successes. We downplay our wins as insignificant, or my favorite, we know any success or win was only a random stroke of luck.
Surely that random happenstance of success pails in comparison to our long list of mistakes and failures.
Where Does Imposter Syndrome Come From
Guess what, not everything traces back to a critical comment our 3rd-grade teacher made or the bullies in middle school.
Imposter syndrome is so prevalent, and according to multiple studies, universally experienced at some point or another by nearly every person, that there are widespread causes of this series of thought distortions.
Researchers don’t even call it a syndrome anymore, it’s a phenomenon.
IP might be influenced by societal expectations and perceived pressure to perform. Perhaps an overly ambitious upbringing and our internalized familial expectations led us here. Or the unrealistic pressure to perform assumed in our workplace culture.
It could be something else. it could be all of the above.
If you can’t enjoy the success you’ve achieved, if you don’t feel good about the things you do well, or, if you won’t accept recognition of your capabilities, then guess……..what, you’re normal AND you’ve got a
Case of the Imposters.
The worst just might be, the more success, the more “imposteritis”.
How do we embrace our BHAG’s (look it up – it’s outdated corporate lingo) when we don’t even feel worthy of the success we have already achieved?
Up Next: Why Do I Have Imposter Syndrome