Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

We’ve all been there. You find yourself in a boardroom meeting at work or in front of a potential client about to do a pitch and you think to yourself “what am I doing here????”
Or you are at a party and all around you are chatty, intelligent, witty, attractive individuals with everything going for them – how did you ever get past the front door??

Let’s face it, we are all hit with a healthy dose of insecurity from time to time. It keeps us real. Right? For some people however, the feeling of not being good enough or that they have somehow, fooled everyone into thinking that they can do a job or earned that promotion, can lead to constant feelings of anxiety, loathing and self-sabotage. A constant fear of failure and anxiety can make you miserable and prevents you from taking the risks in life that might help you attain your goals. It can lead to burn-out, depression and other serious mental health issues.

Imposter syndrome presents in various ways. Ultimately, it results in high levels of stress and anxiety. A feeling that you are a ‘fake’ and will be discovered at any time. Praise is always deflected and never earned. You might find yourself putting off projects and tasks because of an overwhelming fear of failure. Imposter Syndrome often goes hand in hand with a sense of perfectionism – what is the point of starting that project – if it isn’t going to be perfect?

Do you recognise these symptoms in yourself? Or a loved one? Hong Kong is filled with highly pressured, high performing work environments. The pressure to perform and do well at school is omnipresent and continues until university and beyond. The constant pressure can instil a belief in children and adolescents that they are not ‘good enough’. These feelings often continue into adulthood.

What can you do about it?

  1. Tackling negative thoughts and beliefs: Automatic negative thoughts can trigger an anxious response – the fear in your stomach, the feeling of dread, the anxiety. Practice identifying your automatic negative thoughts and start challenging them. Do you have any evidence that the people around you think you are a fake? Challenge those negative thoughts with the more positive thoughts “I have earned my place here”; “I am doing a good job”, “I have prepared for this meeting, and I will do well” …
  2. Positive self-talk: Focus on your achievements and your strengths. Practice listing down your achievements both at work and in life. These will come in handy when it’s appraisal time!
  3. Face your fears: it is important that you put yourself into situations where you are stretched and even feel uncomfortable. Do you get nervous before presentations? Do you hate talking to the boss? Work out what you want to achieve and go for it! Each positive experience will give you a greater understanding and respect for your abilities.
  4. Talk to your friends about your feelings. You might be surprised to hear that people actually think you are pretty great. Receive a compliment? – own it!
  5. Time management – are you stressed because you put off jobs due to a fear of failing? Break down duties into manageable pieces, do little by little, take breaks but also set deadlines. Do not allow yourself to sabotage yourself by procrastination.
  6. Focus on the things you love. Studies show that ensuring a well-balanced life incorporating work, friendship, love, exercise, and laughter will all contribute to a sense of well-being. Be grateful for what you have and spend your time with those you love, doing what you enjoy.
  7. Relaxation techniques – when anxiety hits – reach for a grounding exercise and ….breathe……
  8. Mindfulness practice – focusing on the ‘here and now’ can help you feel grounded, rather than worrying about what the future may have in store. Practice enjoying what you have, now.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Always reassess if your current work/life/friendship environment is the right one for you. If you are affected by these issues and wish to explore them further, speak with a trained counsellor.

Laurence Munoz & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.