Glamour: Convinced you’re not up to the job?

Are You Suffering from Impostor Syndrome?

Convinced you’re not up to the job? Here’s how to beat your internal fraud squad

September 2005

You’re smart and successful, so why do you feel like a failure? It may be you have Impostor Syndrome, a term coined by clinical psychologist Dr. Pauline Clance, to describe doubt in your own abilities and fear of not maintaining your success. Glamour reveals some expert tips to ensure you put your trust in your talent.

You Land a Promotion

You think: “There can’t have been many people to choose from.”

Dr. Valerie Young, who runs Impostor Syndrome workshops, explains: “Although you should see the promotion as a vote of confidence, you convince yourself it is anything but that.”

Solution: “Put yourself in the shoes of the people promoting you,” says Dr. Young. “They’re not going to do it unless they think you’re up to it. After all, their reputation depends on it, too. Replace ‘Oh no! What am I doing?’ with ‘Wow! I’m really going to learn a lot.’”

You’re Awarded a Pay Rise

You think: “I don’t deserve it. There must be some mistake.”

Solution: “You must take control of your negative mindset immediately,” says life coach Fiona Harrold, author ofIndestructible Self-Belief (Piatkus Books, £4.99). “If you allow your self-doubt to run riot, you’ll undermine yourself and your employer will start to wonder why they did give you that rise. Sit down and think of compelling reasons why you’re worth every extra penny. Justify it to yourself and recognize how valuable you are to the organization.”

You’re Asked to Lead a Crucial Project

You think: “I know I’m going to mess this up.”

Solution: “Make choices based on what gives you a sense of fulfillment, not fear,” says Dr. Clance. You don’t want to take on an impossible task as that will just reinforce your feelings of inadequacy. And Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at Lancaster University, reminds us: “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

Your Boss Leaves and You’re in Line for Her Job

You think: “Will I be able to cope? And won’t my colleagues be jealous?”

Solution: “Every time you step into a new role, it takes a few months to find your feet,” says Dr. Young. “Whether the move will generate jealousy or not depends on your current reputation and rapport with other staff members. Although you may become your colleagues’ superior, make sure you are inclusive and maintain good relationships with them all.”

VALERIE YOUNG is a global thought leader on impostor syndrome and co-founder of Impostor Syndrome Institute. In 1983 she designed the first training intervention to impostor syndrome and has since delivered her Rethinking Impostor Syndrome™ program to over half a million people around the world at such diverse organizations as Pfizer, Google, JP Morgan, NASA, and the National Cancer Institute and at over 100 universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Oxford.

Valerie earned her doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was the founding coordinator of the Social Justice Education program, a forerunner to today’s DE&I training. Although her early research focused on professional women—over half of whom were women of color—much of the original findings have proven applicable to anyone with impostor feelings. Her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: And Men, Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It has been reprinted in six languages.

Click here now to learn how you can bring Valerie in to speak at your organization.

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