Do you constantly doubt yourself or your ability at work? Do you attribute your successes to luck or the good nature of your client? Do you feel that you will never keep up and that you do not deserve your position? It would seem that you are a victim of imposter syndrome, also called an inferiority complex.
In its mild form, this feeling of inadequacy displays positive aspects like modesty, involvement and motivation in your work and the desire to give the best that you can. However, in the long term, this can destroy your life.
Don’t worry, it is completely possible to free yourself from this excessive lack of self-confidence.
What is impostor syndrome?
Identified in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, two American psychology professors, impostor syndrome is a form of excessive self-depreciation that can affect any individual, regardless of age, gender, profession, or social status.
Despite their successes, compliments and rewards, people that suffer from imposter syndrome constantly doubt their legitimacy at work. They feel that they do not deserve their place, that they do not possess the necessary skills and that they must hide their shortcomings.
According to these people, their success is linked to external factors like luck, coincidence, or an error in judgement or an error in judgement on their part. They feel as though they are fooling their colleagues and superiors in the company, and they leave in fear of being “found-out” at any moment.
People suffering from an inferiority complex will never ask for a raise and will even go as far as to stop themselves from applying to a job that they believe they do not deserve or refusing to express their ideas because they feel them to be of little significance.
This complex is actually quite common and affects close to 20% of the population (Kevin Chassangre & Stacey Callahan, 2017). In 2007, a study indicated that approximately 70% of the population would doubt the legitimacy of their success at least once in their career. This generally shows itself when starting a new job or accepting new responsibilities.
8 indisputable signs:
Here are 8 signs that show you are suffering from an inferiority complex:
- You put yourself under a lot of pressure;
- You lack confidence in yourself;
- You have a fear of being ‘found out’;
- You don’t know how to accept compliments;
- You are too much of a perfectionist;
- You criticize and belittle yourself constantly;
- You think that anyone could do your job;
- You attribute your success to a combination of external circumstances.
Permanent anxiety, stress, retreating within yourself, impostor syndrome has damaging consequences for your wellbeing, your relationships with your colleagues as well as your work itself.
There are two different reactions:
- The first: The sufferer works excessively in order to be sure of succeeding in their task. In the long term, this attitude poses the risk of ‘burning out’.
- The second: they procrastinate to push away the fact of having to deal with the task, and voluntarily make things difficult for themselves.
In both cases, these attitudes damage the health of the sufferer as well as their fulfilment in their professional life as much as in their personal life. It is important to act quickly before it is too late.
Follow these 5 tips to rediscover your self confidence and overcome imposter syndrome.
5 tips to free yourself from your inferiority complex
1. Recognise that you are suffering from impostor syndrome.
This is the first critical step to rediscover your self-confidence. If you see yourself in any of the signs mentioned above, it is highly likely that you are the victim of an inferiority complex. Being aware of it is a decisive step to free yourself.
2. Speak to someone about it.
Speaking to somebody close to you or to a professional (GP or psychologist) about your suffering, your anxieties and your fear of feeling out of place is an excellent way to feel better. Not only will you put the way you are feeling into words, but you will quickly realise that you are not the only person in this situation. Effectively, everyone doubts and fears that they aren’t good enough. You will realise that you are completely normal and that there is no shame in doubting yourself.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others.
As children, our parents will often compare us to our brothers and sisters. There is nothing more damaging than growing up doubting yourself. Every human being is unique and possesses their own skillset, knowledge and talents. Stop comparing yourself to others and accept who you are, with both your successes and failures. You can rest assured that if your colleagues in the office are competent now, they definitely had their moment of doubt yesterday, just like you.
4. Accept that perfection does not exist.
Nobody is perfect, and, moreover, perfection doesn’t exist. Everybody makes mistakes, that is both inevitable and part of life. It is thanks to these mistakes that we learn and improve.
By accepting this and especially accepting who you are, with our qualities and faults, you will have a higher opinion of yourself.
5. Learn to take compliments
Stop flaty rejecting complements and only focusing on negative criticisms. The next time your boss congratulates you on your work or your colleagues thank you for your efforts, listen to them closely, appreciate what they are saying to you and thank them with a smile. It is as simple as that.
Keep track of these compliments and your successes and not them down in a notebook. Then, whenever you doubt yourself , look in your notebook to boost your confidence.
If, despite these tips, your situation doesn’t improve, don’t hesitate to consult a mental health professional that will help you to rediscover your self-confidence.