Updated: Nov 3, 2021
How often have you felt something you achieved had more to do with luck than ability? Perhaps someone complimented you, and you brushed it off thinking 'If they knew how unqualified and inexperienced I am they wouldn't say that'.
If you feel this way, you could be experiencing impostor syndrome, and you're not alone. It's been argued many people will feel this way during their lifetime, including and perhaps especially those with ADHD (Ramsay, 2010; Sakulku, 2011).
Clance and Imes developed the concept of impostor syndrome in a study of women in 1978. They believed people suffering from it had three main characteristics:
- Feeling they had tricked others into overestimating their skills
- Believing successes were luck or an accident rather than based on their ability
- Fearful of being exposed as frauds
Feelings of impostor syndrome can have negative consequences. It can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as workaholism, as well as feeling more stress, having lower self-esteem and engaging in self-sabotage (Cooksey, n.d.).
If you feel like you might be experiencing impostor syndrome, here are five tips you can use to start feeling less like a fraud. Please also remember that if impostor syndrome is becoming an unhealthy part of your life, it can help to talk to a therapist for more in-depth support.
1. Write a list of your skills and achievements
Start somewhere, and don't worry about being perfect. You'll be surprised what you find once you get started! Skills and achievements could include anything from a University Diploma to being a great parent or knowing how to cook a fantastic lasagne. If you can't think of anything, ask a friend to help get you started.
2. Connect with other people in the same role as you.
Whether it's at work or home, it can help to reach out to others doing similar tasks. Just asking "How are you handling X?" or "How did you find Y?" can provide some much-needed insight into how others might also be struggling. Impostor syndrome often happens in secret, and others in your situation might be feeling it too!
3. If someone gives you positive feedback, write it down.
This strategy might feel unusual as first, but it's great to come back to on a hard day. Keep a file on your phone and in your email to quickly note down or store anything positive. That way, if you have a bad day in the future, you can take some time to read through positive feedback.
4. Ask a supervisor for expectations to ensure you're on the same page
Sometimes we find ourselves burning out to meet a deadline or spending unnecessary hours on a task. If you're unsure about the parameters of a job, ask your supervisors for their expectations. If they are unsure, ask a colleague who also completes a similar task. Sometimes the goals we set ourselves are more demanding than what's expected.
5. Take time to reward yourself
One of the benchmarks of impostor syndrome is feeling you don't deserve a reward because your accomplishment is based on luck or charm rather than ability and persistence. This feeling can make us reluctant to celebrate wins. So the next time you accomplish something, take a few minutes to acknowledge your achievement and treat yourself to something nice, even if it's just a walk around the block.
Hopefully, this week's blog helps you understand impostor syndrome better. We all feel like frauds sometimes, but so often this is not a true reflection of who we are. We're someone who's trying their best and achieving in their own way. That's worth celebrating.
Talk to you next week.
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Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006
Cooksey, K. (n.d.). I!mposter: Understanding, Discussing, and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. 5.
Rakestraw, L. (2017). How to Stop Feeling like a Phony in Your Library: Recognizing the Causes of the Imposter Syndrome, and How to Put a Stop to the Cycle. Law Library Journal, 109(3), 465–479.
Ramsay, J. R. (2010). CBT for Adult ADHD: Adaptations and Hypothesized Mechanisms of Change. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 24(1), 37–45. https://doi.org/10.1891/0889-83188.8.131.52
Sakulku, J. (2011). The Impostor Phenomenon. The Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 75–97. https://doi.org/10.14456/ijbs.2011.6