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The Internal Struggles of Imposter Syndrome

By Loren Smalley

At some point during your professional career, you may be impacted by a phenomenon known as “Imposter Syndrome.” It can affect anyone, including elected officials and celebrities. While it’s normal to have sporadic feelings of inadequacy as you progress through your career track, people who experience symptoms of Imposter Syndrome tend to feel a higher level of insecurity and fear about the work that they produce. Doubting their skills, talents, and achievements regardless of how much they have accomplished or how successful they are.  

Despite overwhelming evidence of competence levels, people who experience symptoms of Imposter Syndrome tend to place a lot of pressure on themselves and overprepare or work harder to prove they are capable. As a result, they may experience productivity shortages because they take much longer to complete tasks. Individuals often spend more time worrying that they will be exposed as a “fraud” and work diligently to try to convince themselves and others that they can do their job. 

Viewing yourself like this can impair how you interact with others and can impact your ability to perform your job duties effectively and efficiently. It can be a debilitating and frustrating experience. Imposter Syndrome can take on many different forms and people can experience many symptoms, including but not limited to:  

  • Feelings of cyclical self-doubt and negative thinking patterns at work 
  • Feeling that success is impossible or doubtful 
  • Feelings of failure and disappointment after setting high goals for yourself and then not meeting your own expectations 
  • Feeling that you are always comparing yourself and your job performance skills to others 
  • Feeling like you are a fraud, that you aren’t good enough 
  • Feeling incompetent and inadequate despite demonstrating competency 
  • Feeling fearful that you won’t live up to your own or other people’s expectations 
  • Feeling pressure to perform at the same level every day/week/month/year 
  • Feeling disappointed over unachieved accomplishments  

These feelings and beliefs are a form of self-destruction and can greatly impact your well-being, often leading to higher burn out rates, anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse. If you can relate to or are experiencing any of these symptoms, there are several actions you can take to help overcome: 

  • Seek professional help through group or individual therapy  
  • Engage in positive self-talk and affirmations
  • Set clear, measurable, and realistic goals 
  • Make a list of accomplishments and skillsets; focus on strengths and what you do well 
  • Don’t compare yourselves to others 
  • Adjust your expectations about what success looks like 
  • Try not to minimize accomplishments 
  • Take things one day at a time 

Reference: Sakulku, J. The Impostor PhenomenonThe Journal of Behavioral Science6(1), 75-97. 

 

Loren Smalley is a Career Coach at the Ignite Career Center of JCS  

Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200

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