Feeling a failure at work


On average, people with better skills and abilities tend to suffer from imposter syndrome. That is, they perceive themselves as a fraud and fear that at some point it will be revealed that they are not as exceptional as they seem.

Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon. Having the perception that you do not deserve the position you have or that your merits are not so remarkable as to receive certain recognitions is a recurring psychological reality. The consequence of nurturing this belief is behind many stressful situations and anxiety disorders.

Now, why does a valid person consider himself a fraud? This psychological phenomenon has decades of research behind it . We know, for example, that it tends to appear more frequently in women than in men. Also, that factors such as perfectionism or low self-esteem are usually behind.

Thus, and despite the fact that this reality does not appear in any diagnostic manual nor is it considered a clinical entity by itself, it is a common occurrence. Moreover, since the clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes described it in 1978, there is no shortage of experts who point out that at least 7 out of 10 people suffer from it at some time.

Let's dig a little deeper.

Characteristics of work impostor syndrome

It may be that more than one catches your attention. Thinking that there are people who have achieved job success and who, nevertheless, perceive themselves as a fraud and not deserving of those positions or recognition, can, at least, be difficult to understand. Even so, studies like the one published in the Journal of Behavorial Science, indicate that about 30% of the achievers suffer from it .

Given the degree of social impact and impact, it is undoubtedly necessary to make this reality much more visible. To begin with, the job impostor syndrome can be defined as the emotional distress linked to the belief of not deserving that position or that professional recognition. This is something that artists, writers, scientists, engineers or anyone with skills in a certain area can experience.

Thus, this devaluing self-perception can have very adverse consequences. For example, we may have a highly skilled person who achieves a job position and still discover that she assumes that the achievement has been "luck." That constant feeling of being a fraud makes you accept from lower salaries until you think you do not deserve to be promoted. Let's know more data.

How does the work impostor syndrome manifest itself?

The main characteristic of people with work impostor syndrome is the clear difficulty in internalizing their own achievements . If I receive an award in a photography contest, I can think that only two or three people have applied to that call, so that award for my work does not mean too much.

  • Another aspect that defines this personality are doubts. They doubt themselves, their validity, their effectiveness, their skills and abilities ...
  • They attribute success to external factors.
  • Expectations are so high that it is impossible to meet them.
  • They sabotage themselves steadily (have an internal dialogue very critical, negative and fatalistic).
  • They experience deep emotions of shame, insecurity, restlessness, anxiety ...

Causes that explain this phenomenon

There are, in fact, multiple dynamics that explain the phenomenon of the labor impostor syndrome. However, the one that constantly backs it up is low self-esteem . Frequently, the low appreciation and valuation of oneself leads to the perception that it is a fraud.

However, let us know more underlying causes:

  • They are highly perfectionist people . Their expectations are so high that even if they reach 99.9% of them they will still be considered a failure.
  • In other cases, what we usually find is the weight of a very demanding education . Growing up in an environment where the only way to receive affection was by showing your worth can subject people to the eternal feeling that they are not trying hard enough.
  • On the other hand, studies , like the one published in the Journal of Multicultural Counselin and Development, point to something interesting. The work impostor syndrome occurs very frequently among social and ethnic minorities. It is enough to belong to another culture, nationality or even gender to harbor stereotypical and negative beliefs about one's own competence.
  • This occurs frequently in women who work in the science or research sector . In those environments where the number of men is greater, it causes them at some point to doubt themselves or have to work harder to prove their worth.

Strategies to reduce the effect of imposter syndrome

We already know that the work impostor syndrome appears with high frequency. Now, a fact that we must consider is that harboring this perception on an ongoing basis has a cost. It is common that many of these people do not progress in their work and that they also develop a mood disorder.

What strategies exist to reduce or manage this type of situation? These would be some keys:

  • These people need to stop comparing themselves to others , to begin to appreciate and recognize their own achievements.
  • They must also identify and defuse irrational fears . They cannot validate the fear that others will discover that, in reality, they are not as valid or competent as they appear. Something like that makes no sense or use, let alone truthfulness. Rationalizing and detecting false thinking errors is the first step.
  • It is advisable to share with other people what happens to them . It is always good to put those fears out loud so that others help us to become aware of their little validity.
  • You have to bring to mind the successes achieved and those recognitions achieved. Something like this allows the person with this syndrome to become aware that they are not as fallible as they think.
  • Another good strategy to deactivate impostor syndrome is to help or train others . Sharing knowledge, skills and instructing is a great way to discover all that one can contribute to the world. With this, self-esteem is strengthened much more.

To conclude, although it is true that we are not dealing with any clinical category or psychological disorder, it is a phenomenon that greatly limits growth and personal development. Let's not hesitate to ask for help if we need it.

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