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

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young, Ed.D. is an internationally-recognized expert on impostor syndrome and author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown Publishing) now available in five languages. Valerie has delivered her highly solution-oriented and surprisingly upbeat message in the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe to such diverse organizations as IBM, Merck, Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Intel, Chrysler, Facebook, BP, Ernst & Young, McDonald's, The Space Science Telescope Institute, Society of Women Engineers, Women in Commercial Real Estate, Cornell University's Men of Color in STEM Symposium, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and over 85 other colleges and universities. Her career-related advice has been featured in business and popular media outlets on five continents including The BBC, Yahoo Finance, Newsweek, Time, O magazine, Fast Company, Science, Inc. and many more. Valerie was one of 11 people chosen to deliver a six-minute talk at TED HQ as part of TED/NYC Idea Search 2017. Valerie was the founding coordinator of the Social Justice Education program at the University of Massachusetts where she earned her doctorate.

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