Have you ever felt inadequate? To think that you do not deserve the goals you have achieved and that you cannot really enjoy what you have achieved professionally? Feeling that unpleasant sensation that leads you to think of your success as something that, sooner or later, will be “exposed”?

If the answer is yes, maybe you too suffer from the so-called “impostor syndrome”. What is it all about?

The term, coined in 1978 by US psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, describes a particular psychological condition, widespread among people who have achieved a certain success, characterized by the inability to internalize their own merits and the terror of being recognized as “impostors”. People affected by this syndrome, despite the external demonstrations of their skills, therefore remain convinced that they do not deserve the success achieved.

How it manifests itself and how to recognize it

The 2002 Cowman & Ferrari studies showed that this attitude leads the individual to put in place “self-pressure”, so that his inability is not exposed and the “bluff” is never discovered. In this way, those who suffer from the impostor syndrome inevitably face deleterious perfectionism and obsessive control of their work, focusing excessively on mistakes and their long-term consequences. Stress and anxiety increase, as does the risk of burnout.

The International Journal of Behavioral Science says that around 70% of people experience this phenomenon at some point in their professional life. And in the past, even “illustrious victims” like Albert Einstein and writer John Steinbeck have suffered in some way.

Recognizing it isn’t easy. For this reason, life-coach Luca Bertuccini has listed some questions to answer in order to try to identify signs or alarm bells that help to understand if you are actually falling into the “trap”. Here’s what they are:

  • Do you feel perpetually insecure and don’t think you deserve what you have?
  • Do you think the people around you are talented and you don’t?
  • Are you afraid that someone will discover that your success was achieved in a deceptive way?
  • Can’t feel your worth and believe that anyone can achieve the same results as you?

According to Bertuccini, in fact, the first step to get out of it is awareness.

You're such a fake! What the impostor syndrome is all about. - It's Complicated

How to help yourself and your employees overcome it

Once you have recognized the impostor syndrome, it is good to implement good practices that can help defeat it. Which ones?

According to psychologist Adam M Persky, the first piece of advice is to try to separate the facts, such as an undeniable success, from your feelings; furthermore, it is important to avoid dwelling too much on failures or accepting the idea that you cannot really be able to do something until you do it. No obstacle is impossible but, at the same time, no one is perfect. Finally, always remember that everyone, in different ways and at different times, can harbor the feeling of being an impostor.

Writer, consultant, and work expert Alexandra Levitt also suggests three useful strategies to implement:

  • write down a list of the results achieved in the last year and the reasons why you are actually qualified for a particular job. Then hang it up in plain sight to motivate yourself every day;
  • confront and ask for a second opinion. In this case, the support of a mentor may be useful, who can help you see your merits in an objective light (therefore avoid the advice of friends or relatives);
  • take time to reflect during the day. Reminding yourself that your job is deserved and that, thanks to your skills and abilities, you will be able to tackle any professional commitment or difficulty.

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