Imposter Syndrome: What is it and why are we talking about it?
It seems like people are writing about imposter syndrome almost every way I turn. University students trying to get through their degrees, professionals who are advancing their careers and those whose accomplishments we admire
are all sharing their stories of private self-doubts.
What exactly is imposter syndrome and why are we talking
about it now?
As I scour the internet, I come across various definitions each slightly different and similar. The common threads are this:
- Persistent doubt or underestimation in your
- The anxiety that one day your incompetence will
be discovered and your fraudulence revealed
- Successes to date are down to luck, other people’s
support or because they’re fairly standard.
How long has imposter syndrome been around?
The concept of imposter syndrome was coined in 1978 in an article about high achieving women. No doubt, it existed long before this. Back then, they called it the imposter phenomenon. In a study involving 150 high-performing professional women, there emerged a noticeable pattern: ‘despite the consistent evidence of external validation, these women, lacked the internal acknowledgement of their accomplishments.’ Therein, the term imposter syndrome was hatched.
For several months now, I’ve noticed people speaking about this concept more and more. Why now?
I’m not entirely sure. You could say that culturally we are now ready to speak about it, which raises the next question: what has
shifted in our culture?
What has shifted in our culture?
The shift that I see is one of the people speaking up. People from all walks of life are taking advantage of the opportunities to share their struggles with larger audiences. The growth of social media and the popularity of TED Talks have given voices to many who may have at another time in history, categorically ignored.
Self-doubt is human. Confidence may be its nemesis, but confidence doesn’t avert self-doubt. That isn’t how thinking works. Many of us strive to be more confident, perhaps in the hope that our doubts and uncertainty get extinguished. How often do they disappear entirely? Rarely I suspect.
Given the limitation of confidence, what else can we do to get past problems of imposter syndrome? Personally speaking, courage and self-compassion have served me much better. They dilute the doubts in my mind, which is good enough for me.
Plus, I don’t want to be rid of self-doubt entirely. Otherwise, I risk being too confident, and that isn’t good either. Just think about the people you know who are full to the brim of self-assuredness and without curiosity for what they don’t know; are they people you like?
What has helped you with your self-doubts or sense of being a fraud?
In this week’s round-up, I’ve gathered some thoughts from various inspirational people, all sharing their own experiences of navigating imposter syndrome.
The Openforwards weekly round-up of ideas from around the world to help you work, love, play and feel better.
- Imposter Syndrome – Brief youtube video by School of Life
- This is how to overcome Imposter Syndrome: 4 secrets from research Article by communications specialist, Nick Morgan.
- How students of color confront imposter syndrome TED TALK by educator, Dena Simmons.
- How to push back on Imposter Syndrome Article by author and researcher, Eric Barker
- Lost your confidence: Here is how to find it. Openforwards article on the blog.