It’s that little voice inside our heads saying that we’re not as good as everyone else seems to think — that we somehow just got lucky, and any minute now we’ll be found out.
Psychologists call this ‘Imposter Syndrome’ — or the nagging feeling that you haven’t really earned your success. It’s astonishingly common: raise the subject in any circle of good female friends, and those deep dark secrets will be uncovered.
Some of the giveaways of this syndrome are brushing off compliments and downplaying achievements, protesting that you were just ‘in the right place at the right time’, had lots of help, or that ‘anyone could have done it’. Sound familiar?
And while for many women that just feels like good manners — who wants to brag, or hog all the credit for a team effort? — there’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-destruction. Some ‘imposters’ work themselves into the ground, worried their best isn’t good enough or are driven to keep checking and re-checking their work for mistakes.
Sadly, Imposter Syndrome often stops us really savoring success, since we’re worried it can’t last. We beat ourselves up so much about not being seen as arrogrant, but shouldn’t women train themselves to enjoy our successes more, raise a glass to success, rather than worrying about whether we can do it again.
When successful women are often portrayed as bitches – pushy and dislikeable, it’s easy to see why some might feel uncomfortable at the top. But what distinguishes ‘imposters’ is an unusually strong fear not of success, but of failure. Dr. Valerie Young is the author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. She argues that while everyone makes mistakes, ‘imposters’ often feel excessively ashamed about doing so.
‘They have this very definite rule book in their heads that says “if I was really competent I wouldn’t make mistakes, I would know everything . . .” They could win a Nobel Peace Prize and still think they could have done better.’
Dr. Young argues people who rise from humble backgrounds, and women working in very male-dominated professions, are particularly at risk since they may feel they don’t ‘fit in’.
The more experience you build up, the more evidence you have to face down irrational fears. That might mean reminding yourself that you can’t always know everything, but you are smart enough to find out if necessary: or that the occasional minor error isn’t the end of the world.
If all else fails, it’s worth remembering that doubting yourself occasionally may actually be healthier than being so convinced of your own genius that you never listen to anyone else. ‘Never forget how well you’ve already done.
The Real Cougar Woman is a 5-carat diamond who knows the importance of taking care of her health, beauty, relationships, finances and spirituality. Linda Franklin says,”there is no stopping a woman who has a strong belief system, passion and a dream. All things are possible”. Linda’s book, Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am helps women of all ages tap into their power and live life to the fullest.