Our self-help columnist Athena Laz is a qualified psychologist and the creator of the online programme Own Your Power. She works with women worldwide, helping them to reclaim their ability to feel good. You can see her work here.
Q: Hey Athena,
I work in a corporate company and am currently climbing the ladder. The thing is I have such deep anxiety that I somehow ‘got lucky’ and that my bosses are going to find out! I know this is ridiculous. I’ve worked really hard to get here and I even have a degree behind me, but I can’t help feel like a fraud! What can I do to feel better about this? It’s freaking me out. Thanks, Anonymous.
A: Dear Anonymous,
It sounds like you are struggling with something commonly known as Imposter Syndrome (more accurately known as Imposter Phenomenon). Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes first discovered and coined the term to describe successful people (usually women) who despite their accomplishments feel like frauds.
Here are 4 tell-tale signs that you may be dealing with IP (you can also take this free test here ):
- You may be successful by external standards but have the feeling that your success is due to some mysterious fluke or luck or great effort
- You’re afraid that your achievements are due to ‘breaks’ and not the result of your own skill, competence & hard work.
- You feel pretty certain that if you don’t make an excessive effort that you will never be able to repeat your success.
- You are constantly anxious that somehow you are going to blow it at your work place. You are locked in self-doubt and fear.
Imposter Syndrome works on the underlying assumption that you don’t really have the permission to be as successful or powerful as you are. There is only one person’s permission that is required and that is your own! When you actively give yourself permission (and with it honor your well-deserved seat at the table), you change from needing external validation to actively internally validating yourself. You can do this ‘validating’ by working on your inner dialogue and healing the critical statements that fuel this phenomenon; as well as working on any potential fears that you may have around the idea of failure. I also highly recommend that you take a look at Joyce Roche’s (former CEO of Avon) online community which is designed to support people, who like you, may be struggling with Imposter Syndrome.