Feel Like An Imposter? Maybe That’s A Good Thing

Imposter Syndrome. Heard of it?

According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, more than 70% of people have suffered from it at some point in their working life. If you haven’t heard of it before, a trip to Wikipedia will tell you it’s:

‘a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite external evidence of their competence’.

From what you’ve just read, you’d likely think that having Imposter Syndrome is a negative thing. After all, having a ‘persistent internalised fear’ of anything ain’t fun, let alone something that hampers your ability to do your job and earn a buck.

But I’ve good news for you!

Whilst having Imposter Syndrome does indeed have negative effects, it also has positive ones – as researcher Basima Tewfik from Wharton Business School explored in her paper Imposter Thoughts As A Double-Edged Sword.

After performing studies with over 160 employees she discovered that “while having imposter thoughts does elicit fear – which can cause people to flub what they’re working on – it can also be a motivator. That motivation can be a good thing for job mastery.”

She also discovered that “having imposter thoughts actually improves interpersonal performance at work: helping people, cooperating, and encouraging others. It seems that when employees feel that their competence is lower than others think, they may be spurred to prove themselves on an interpersonal level.”

Or to put it another way

If you’re one of the 70% of people who have experienced Imposter Syndrome, don’t immediately assume it’s going to be detrimental to your work and career. Focus on the upsides.

In an article on www.bbc.com, Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at New York University suggested ‘the best course of action for workers hoping to harness this new potential is to step past the negative emotion component and lean further into the imposter feelings. Focusing in on the perceived competence gap between you and your peers − and putting your energy towards closing it − just might give you the edge you’re looking for.’

So think again about Imposter Syndrome…it’s not all bad!

Have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? How did you cope with it? Or what’s your view of whether it’s a good or bad thing? The comment box below is ready and waiting, so it’d be great to know your thoughts. Thanks!

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4 responses to “Feel Like An Imposter? Maybe That’s A Good Thing”

  1. Jeff Clarke says:

    I don’t recall feeling like an impostor but I’ve often thought whatever I did might have been done better. This applies particularly to novel writing and whenever a book goes to the publisher I feel I ought to have read through it once more even if I’ve done so at least three times already. My latest novel, I, MEDEA, has just landed with the publisher and the above comment applies.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      It’s horrible when you do re-read something you’ve read and suddenly realise there’s a typo or error you missed on the last three read throughs. I used a proof reader on my recent re-write of Personal Branding For Brits and even then know there’s probably still something lurking in the pages somewhere.

  2. Matthew Cox says:

    Smiling at this article Jennifer, as someone who often still thinks “is today the day I get found out?!”

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