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CAREER ADVICE

Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

There are steps you can take to help combat it.

By KELLY GALLANT | FEB 19 2014

There has been a phenomenon amongst us and it does not discriminate. There is something to be said about the power of the mind. Just imagine that you cannot internalize your accomplishments. You reflect on your success and there is no self-praise nor recognition of intelligence, only credit given to such things as connections or timing; luck not merit. Instead of looking to your strengths, you get stuck in a habitual world of weaknesses; you cannot commend yourself and only focus on negative feedback. You do not acclaim what you have done and neither degree nor credentials along the way may change what heavily lays on your mind.

This is known as Imposter Syndrome – when you have that little voice in your head that says “They know I don’t belong in this program” or “they’re going to find out that I am a fraud.”

Does this sound familiar? You deny sharing your ideas or opinions, panicked that you may be seen as unintelligent or unmasked as a fraud. The feelings of phoniness disguise your worthiness and you may even loathe in self-doubt, not humility. You will expect failure and as a result, avoid career advancements, or you can act in frantic activity, almost angst to prove who you are. If you strive for perfection or keep raising the bar for yourself, you may instigate a plaque of self-delusions; you are almost afraid to make a mistake.

Once you are able to determine that you suffer from Imposter Syndrome (this might be hard to do, so if you have doubts, speak to a career counselor), you must start to take steps to combat it. The goal is to change the internal dialogue in your mind and enhance your process with career development. You must find strategies that encourage your inner experiences to be meaningful, and your success to be savored not short-lived. Here are some suggestions for what you can do:

Talk to others

Mention your feelings of anxiety to a close friend. Chances are they have felt the same way at some point in their lives. Talking to someone who knows you really well will help dispel some of your anxiety. Explore who else might feel similar to you and the effects of those feelings. Allow the comparison to others to feed your restoration of self through acceptance and understanding. People might even start to tell you about their feelings, which will demonstrate that you are not the only one who is suffering. There is an empowerment that can emerge when helping others as it can in turn, help you.

Talk to yourself

Instead of the typical, “I must not fail”, try “I will do well” and “I got this far in life because of luck” changes to, “I am smart.” Practice this positive thinking through daily commitments and repetition to self. Establishing a new pattern of thinking will take courage and much practice in order to retrain your brain.

Keep a journal

Reflect on the feedback and compliments that you receive. How do you usually respond? Could you offer a “Thank you” to those who offer such recognition? Accepting feedback could not only portray good manners but also enhance your professional self-image; if you discount it, the message from you may be that you are not so talented.

Career and mental health counselors could advocate for you. The approach could come from a lens that envisions strengths not deficits. Though the future and its’ endeavors may be addressed, the intervention could acknowledge a new task but focus on your reflections of past engaged behaviors and actions. This could provide you with insight into the means to your success; it could identify internal resources versus the external influences. There may be an inclination to have you visualize what being bright looks like for you. For example, your version might be a fantasy about mastery without limitations. This mental rehearsal could offer vivid details of the circumstances and feelings surrounding it. The memories may be implanted and trick your subconscious mind. You could be inspired to take the risk, set the goal and even realize, rejoice and reward yourself for the outcome.

Career development practitioners may encourage your portfolio; keep record of your performance and artifacts of your achievements. You could be asked to review your past career roles and almost ‘decode’ your professional experiences and job descriptions to translate your skill set. Writing your assets and being able to enunciate your duties in relationship to competencies could affirm your knowledge and even an expertise.


Kelly Gallant is a career specialist at the University of Calgary’s career services.

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