There’s an imposter among us!

Celeste Man

By Celeste Man

Have you ever thought that your success has been the result of luck or timing? Perhaps you’ve felt like you don’t deserve to be where you are. You are not alone. Many people have imposter syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a concept that is personal to each individual. For myself, I have felt undeserving of my graduate job offer from PA, believing that the reason I received it was due to good timing and a good night’s sleep before my assessment centre, rather than as a result of hard work and effort.

For others, imposter syndrome can manifest itself as berating your performance, self-doubt, and an inability to realistically assess your competence and skills. For many, positive feedback has little influence on altering these beliefs. 

According to research published by the International Journal of Behavioural Science, 70% of people have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. Imposter syndrome is felt across work and personal lives, as we continuously face new projects and work in different organisations and sectors. Learning at pace and requiring in-depth knowledge to appear competent and self-confident can be difficult. The challenge of simultaneously learning whilst building credibility is called the ‘learning-credibility tension’ researched by Alaric Bourgoin and Jean- François Harvey. 

Managing imposter syndrome

The first step towards managing imposter syndrome is to recognise intrusive thoughts and feelings. For example, I often feel that others know much more than me - which is an element of imposter syndrome. Now that I’ve recognised this, I’m able to understand that working with incomplete information is normal.  It’s why we adapt and collaborate to build our collective knowledge as a team.

For me, there are three techniques that are key to overcoming imposter syndrome:

1. Share your feelings

Most people have felt like an imposter at some point in their career, which means that you are not alone in the way that you feel. Talking to friends, colleagues or a mentor can help challenge irrational beliefs.

2. Take small steps

Instead of focusing on perfect outcomes when trying something for the first time seek feedback so that you can iterate and improve how you deliver the task in future.

3. Stop comparing yourself with others

Comparing yourself with others will only result in finding a fault within yourself. So instead, focus on what you can learn from other people, and what strengths you bring to your team.

It’s important to highlight the power of sharing your feelings with your peers and for leaders to create an environment for open conversations around imposter syndrome.

And finally, try to lean into your feelings of imposter syndrome and accept them with pride.

About the authors

Celeste Man
Celeste Man PA delivery expert

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