The effects of impostor syndrome on work performance

impostor syndrome

The effects of impostor syndrome on work performance

Ellie is here to talk about something we’re all too familiar with…

Do you ever find yourself thinking “I’m not good enough for this” or “I shouldn’t be here”? Haven’t we all?

It’s a way of thinking that a lot of us can relate to. They form part of what is known as ‘impostor syndrome’ - a complicated concept to define and one even more difficult to find a cause for.

Impostor syndrome can be detrimental to individual work performance, resulting in insecurity and under-performance. To some extent, it could be seen as part and parcel of the human condition and something to just deal with. But there are ways to rationalise your thinking patterns and ease the anxieties they can bring about.

What is impostor syndrome?

To put it simply, impostor syndrome is a pattern of self-doubt and anxiety that often manifests for no apparent reason. The most confident and qualified person in the room could find themselves weighed down by feelings of inadequacy, and chances are you or I wouldn’t guess it.

The lack of explanation for why these ways of thinking come about is what can make them so frustrating to deal with.

A good way to approach negative thinking patterns is to recognise how your personal impostor syndrome manifests itself and work on proving your assumptions and anxieties wrong. A key way to minimise the effect impostor syndrome has on your life is to admit that, in this case, it’s probably you being your own worst enemy.

‘I don’t deserve this’

Assuming yourself as undeserving of an opportunity becomes a defence mechanism used to prepare for the worst. If you’re applying for a new job, you label yourself unworthy from the start so it stings a little less if it doesn’t go your way. In doing this though, you stop putting in your full effort. You self-sabotage and start a vicious cycle of ruining your own chances while using this to reinforce the idea you’re unworthy.

38% of respondents suggest that their impostor syndrome is a result of self-generated self-doubt, meaning we’re all effectively shooting ourselves in the foot.

This also means that if you do succeed, you’re met with feelings of guilt about your success. In this case, landing your dream job isn’t met with pride and a sense of achievement. Instead, you feel they must’ve made a mistake or that you’re being set up for failure or embarrassment.

‘I shouldn’t be here’

This one can leave you feeling you’re not good enough for a role or position you’ve already got. You’ve achieved success in something or landed a good role, but you still find yourself feeling unworthy. You assume that there are others who are more qualified or able to do a better job than you are. You can also experience guilt at the idea you’ve taken someone else’s place to get there.

With this, you need to trust in the fact that you’ve got to where you are for a reason and have likely worked hard for it. No one will critique you as harshly as you do yourself, so try and give yourself a break and enjoy your success.

‘They’ll catch on to me soon’

How can you perform to the best of your ability if you’re constantly on edge and looking over your shoulder? If you’re permanently waiting for the other shoe to drop, you will often perform worse and end up putting yourself forward in a bad light.

You can spend so much time worrying that you’re not good enough that you end up appearing so. At some point, you’ve got to fake it until you make it. Sure, you won’t always feel confident or that you know what you’re doing. But if you put forward that everything’s fine, eventually you’ll realise nothing’s as bad as you build it up to be in your head.

If you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts like these, try to take comfort in the following. The chances are that those you suppose to be more qualified or more ‘worthy’ also fall victim to these thought processes at times. All of us are guilty of succumbing to impostor syndrome in varying degrees.

If you can’t completely shake your anxieties, shift your perspective and use them as momentum. Feelings of inadequacy make for incredible motivation and drive. Channel your worries of failure or under-performance and use them to prove yourself, and any doubters, wrong. You are here, so own it.

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Alia Coster