Could impostor syndrome be costing you money?
If it feels like you're fighting a battle against yourself or that no matter what you achieve you're unworthy of praise, you may be dealing with impostor syndrome. The Journal of Behavioral Science estimates 70% of people will experience at least one episode in their lifetime and Forbes Magazine says it can be particularly problematic in negotiation.
"It can actually prevent people from asking for a raise or putting themselves in a position where other people might judge them because they're too afraid and don't believe that they can manage that feedback well," said Regional Director of Behavioral Health Services and Providence Alaska Medical Center Renee Rafferty.
While impostor syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, The Harvard Business Review defines it as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.
"No matter what achievement or success proves differently, you continue to feel like you might be a fraud or that you really don't have what it takes to do the job or the profession that you're in," Rafferty said.
The term "impostor syndrome" was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. Originally thought to be a phenomenon that only affected women, it's now been observed in both genders.
"I think that a big piece of it is that our culture has a lot of focus on achievement and when you feel that your worth or value is based on your achievement and you may not see somebody else that looks or sounds or has the same skill set that you have, you might start to doubt what it is that you bring to the table," Rafferty said.
Some studies have also suggested that family dynamics may play a role.
"Parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem," an American Psychological Association article stated.
Rafferty also notes that competition between siblings may also play a role, driving a lifelong process of associating achievement with worthiness.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing to have those thoughts because it does help to propel maybe pushing yourself a little bit harder, but when it gets more intense and you really can't celebrate your gifts or your successes is when it starts to maybe push into making anxiety or depression worse," Rafferty said.
Rafferty recommends finding a mentor that can become a source of support in the workplace — someone you can share your feelings with openly and honestly.
Other recommendations from APA include focusing on what you do well, recognizing your expertise and working to reframe your thinking.
"You're not your worst act or your best act and understanding that you are enough just as you are and your achievements add to what you bring, but they aren't who you are," Rafferty said.
APA says individual therapy has also proven helpful.
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