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Have you ever downplayed an achievement at work by telling yourself it’s not a big deal or felt like a fraud when you get congratulated on a job well-done? We’re all guilty of that once in a while, but research shows that if these fears are recurring, it could be linked to what’s called Imposter Syndrome.

Success is something that everyone has, no matter how big or small the action may be: a promotion at work, a step goal hit or a baby who finally sleeps through the night. Despite these everyday wins, many people struggle to feel like they’re “good enough”, don’t feel proud of their accomplishments, or think that they don’t belong in the place where they’ve worked hard to get to. This is when you know that imposter syndrome has struck, and Professor Maja dropped by The Social to teach us how to overcome it.

HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Some telltale signs include a fear of failure or always second-guessing your decisions, always having a goal of perfection, and minimizing your accomplishments to explain away your success. You may feel like you’ve fooled those around you into believing that you belong when you personally don’t think that you’re enough. If you’re having lunch with a friend and you say “This might sound stupid, but…” then stop right now! Combatting your tendencies to cast doubt on what you say even before you speak is the first step to overcoming imposter syndrome. Everyone has an opinion, and you should be unapologetic about yours!

WHO IS IMPACTED THE MOST?

It’s not just women who feel this way. Men, children, elderly, even your kooky next-door neighbour could be battling imposter syndrome; researchers say 70 per cent of us will deal with it at some point in our lives. Figure out what is at the core of your self-doubt: this is called your “Crusher”. If your crusher is that “I don’t feel smart enough so I shouldn’t speak up”, then change the direction of the statement. Instead say “I have a voice and an opinion, and I have a right to speak”. Remember that failure is NOT permanent! You need to learn how to fall so that you can learn how to stand back up stronger than ever. And remember to say thank-you to those who give you praise along the way.

PREVENT YOUR KIDS FROM DEVELOPING IT

If you’re worried that your kids may be developing Imposter Syndrome then here are some ways to help them build up resilience against it. Be specific when giving compliments: no more “great job buddy!” Instead try “Look how well you play the piano after practicing so hard!” Make sure to record their successes, even the small ones; this shows them how much they’ve grown, much like marking their height on the inside of a cupboard. Finally, rejoice in the failure. Ask them what they failed at today, and help them learn from it. Tell them about your own failures and teach them to perceive failures as positives.

The next time that you feel inadequate, check whether Imposter Syndrome has dug its claws in and use these tips to help get back to your winning self.

Professor Maja is a sociologist and professor at McMaster University and Mohawk College, and is the CEO of “ALL IN” Inc., a women’s leadership organization that gives women the communication tools to speak up with confidence at work and get what they want in life.