What Is Imposter Syndrome? The Phenomenon Explained By A Serial Self-Doubter

Last updated by Katie M.

Imposter syndrome creeps up on us when we are at our lowest and fills us with even more self-doubt, to the point where we believe we are completely inapt in our role. The worries associated with this phenomenon are so invasive that they often push people to believe they are frauds and completely useless in all areas of their life, despite them displaying obvious competencies and merits that prove otherwise. Like many career women of my generation, I suffer from anxiety and have therefore been crippled with feelings of self-doubt over the years. Now, I'm not here for a pity party, but I do think it's important to share my experiences and my tips on how I pick myself up when the insecurity spontaneously invade my brain.


I've always had anxiety, but my imposter syndrome was a late bloomer

I've never been the most confident of people, and I regularly get embarrassing flashbacks to those times at school where I'd stutter my way through reading a text during an assembly whilst my cheeks felt like they were on fire. Yep, I was THAT girl, you know the one in the corner who'd never speak up in class or raise her hand even though she knew the answer. When I was younger, especially during my school years, I never really felt like I fit in with the other kids, who were always loud and outspoken. The truth is, I'm a born introvert and not much has changed for me since 6th grade, where my teacher would regularly contact my parents to complain about my lack of participation in class.  

Going away to college did me the world of good and taught me that I didn't need to stay on the sidelines. It was during those golden years that I decided that I wanted to become a career woman, despite my issues with mental health and anxiety. I had the potential to do amazing things, so why wouldn't I?! Plus, I'd always worked extremely hard and was never afraid to go the extra mile.

>>> Discover the 333 rule for anxiety

I should have been careful what I wished for...

After graduating from college, I went to work for a marketing agency with fancy offices in the middle of a big city. When I first got there, I tried to convince myself that I was deserving of my role, even though even fiber in my body was screaming that I didn't belong there amongst all those high achieving women in vertiginous heels and neat pencil skirts. The realization that I was out of my depth hit my like a ton of bricks and sent my anxiety spinning out of control. I had succumbed to the imposter syndrome, and there was powerless in the face of it!

The imposter phenomenon dragged me down to my lowest point

I can honestly say that the 2 years I spent working there were the worst 2 years of my life. Regardless of putting in extra hours and working harder than most of my coworkers, I never got the thanks or the recognition I believe I deserved. Despite receiving regular praise from the clients, nothing was ever good enough for my bosses or coworkers, and I mean nothing. As the gut-wrenching emails built up in my inbox demanding to know why I wasn't on target for my objectives and the dirty looks intensified, I eventually reached rock bottom. I was left feeling like a fraud, a phoney, a fake... And these certainly weren't the thoughts a successful woman should be having.

Toxic work environments favor the imposter syndrome

Although at the time I was incapable of acknowledging that I was in a toxic situation, it's only now looking back that I realize that I was on the brink of a burnoutI was exhausted and could no longer act like all the pressure, criticism and spitefulness wasn't getting to me; I'm only human after all, and a sensitive one at that! After all, it's only natural that when we are exposed to such an unhealthy environment that we eventually start to believe what we hear about ourselves; that we are useless, incompetent, and an underperformer. It is thought that 70% of all professionals, both men and women, will fall victim to imposter syndrome at least once in their careers, a statistic which reinforces the need to revise our work environments and professional rapports.

How to beat imposter syndrome - 5 Tips to follow

This can be an intimidating phenomenon, but that's not to say it has to get the better of you. By following these 5 tips, you'll not only preserve your mental health, but could also avoid plunging yourself into the deep black hole of a burnout.

  • 1) Focus on your achievement - Everyone has something they can and should be proud of. Whether it be an academic or sporting achievement, you are great at something, and mustn't forget this.
  • 2) Talk about how you're feeling - As the saying goes, 'a problem shared is a problem halved', and talking about what you are going through will give you fresh perspective too.
  • 3) Don't compare yourself to others - Wondering why Sarah in accounts achieves her targets on a monthly basis is a waste of time because you are an individual, with your own set of skills, so avoid putting extra pressure on yourself.
  • 4) Keep a gratitude journal - There may be days when you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, but forcing yourself to reflect on your blessings is a positive exercise for your wellbeing.
  • 5) Tell yourself that not everyone's opinion counts - Cast other people's judgement to the side, here, only yours matters and deep down you know you are good enough.

Editor's opinion - Feeling berated is a heavy burden

Not being recognized for our efforts or talents is something that hinders our confidence and limits our creativity. With this in mind, don't hesitate to compliment your coworkers whenever you feel like they are doing a good job. A little positivity goes a long way and can help to change someone's perception of their capabilities and worthiness.

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!


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Article presented by Katie M.

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