I had vaguely heard something about impostor syndrome before, but this Guardian article really made me take notice of the psychological phenomenon. Impostor syndrome means, in the briefest of summaries, that we don't believe our own success is down to ourselves but that we're actually 'tricking' everyone when we do something right. Like many psychological concepts you hear about them in the day-to-day but somehow it never hits home that they might truly be affecting us... When the stats are rolled out it's quite easy to assume you're not one of the 30%, or even the 80%, but reading the details laid out in this article I realise how much this particular concept is among us. It all sounds so familiar when I think about my colleagues, friends and family, and I see how important it is to believe in your own success. And not just believing that you can achieve something in the future, but remembering what you have already done instead of just waving it away.
This article discusses some of they key details in a way that powerfully outlines how it affects us. Impostor syndrome means self-criticising even when something goes right, or explaining away success as circumstantial and not actually down to our own hard work. Apparently the British are much more prone to it than Americans. It is classic of us self-deprecating Brits to be coy and quiet instead of believing in what we're capable of doing. However it's definitely a global occurrence, and has happened throughout history, when considering that Einstein and Meryl Streep have also suffered from it.
As this article points out it's not just the individuals who might suffer. On an everyday level in any office, and on a much bigger scale, we need people to step up and put their best foot forward, believe in what they can offer and volunteer themselves. If we're all too busy suffering from this syndrome then how can we achieve this?
Of course, reading about the concept might not make it all disappear away, but it's amazing how helpful it can be to peruse the details of such a syndrome and remember how it affects us all. When something goes right, don't put it down to 'luck'. Give impostor syndrome a nod and shoo it away so you can remember just how much you have achieved.
The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Whether on a local or global level, the problems we face require the best people to step up. But many hold back because they feel that luck rather than ability lies behind their successes, and dread that sooner or later some person or event will expose them for the fraud that deep down they believe themselves to be. Far from being a realistic self-assessment, the impostor syndrome mind-trap prevents people from believing in themselves, to the detriment of us all.