There’s the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, but the truth is many pet professionals feel like frauds. Why is this? It could be that they’re suffering from imposter syndrome.
That’s right, not only is imposter syndrome legit, but it also affects many people. As such, recognising the signs and learning about ways to conquer the feeling can help you feel more confident in your chosen career.
Know the signs
Sure, we all suffer from periods of self-doubt from time to time, so what’s the difference between this and imposter syndrome? Typically, imposter phenomenon is more severe and nagging, but you are also likely to do the following:
- Display perfectionist tendencies, such as setting yourself unachievable or unrealistic goals.
- Downplay your success. For example, you tell yourself all your great achievements have been flukes, rather than a result of your own hard work.
- Suffer from constant dissatisfaction. You may push yourself to do well, and even when you succeed you feel your efforts are poor.
- Put up with a constant fear of being ‘found out’.
Why do I feel like a fraud?
Despite obtaining the necessary qualifications or possessing all the right skills and attributes, you still feel like a fake. Why? And what, if anything, can you do about it?
First discovered by psychologists in the 1970s, imposter syndrome is described as an ‘unwarranted sense of insecurity.’ For example, you might constantly feel like you’re winging it, while everyone else appears to know exactly what they are doing.
Perhaps you feel like the bigger your business grows or the more success you achieve, the less you deserve it and the more fraudulent you feel.
Well, if it makes you feel any better, imposter syndrome is incredibly common. Sadly though, it’s becoming increasingly significant due to high-pressure jobs and increased competition.
While there’s no single factor that causes this condition, psychologist Karina Mak explains that anxiety, pressure from parents to succeed, and our own expectations can contribute to fraudulent feelings.
What does the research tell us?
Certainly, according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, around 70% of people experience imposter fears at some point in their lives.
A review of imposter syndrome by academics from the School of Psychology at Sydney University found that professionals with low levels of job satisfaction are linked to stronger feelings of impostorism.
However, while initial clinical observations were conducted with high achieving females, it is believed that imposter syndrome can be experienced regardless of a person’s level of success or achievement. Furthermore, men and women are equally susceptible to suffering from this condition. Yet, men may be less likely to discuss their feelings.
Imposter syndrome: it’s not all bad
Sure, it’s pretty awful to feel like a fake and to continuously doubt yourself or your ability, but there are some positives. A feature by Dr Caitlin Weston explains that the condition can increase a person’s risk of burnout, dissatisfaction, distress, anxiety and depression. However, she adds that the self-doubt associated with the imposter phenomenon isn’t all bad.
She says, “Second-guessing our decisions, particularly as training clinicians, makes us safer and can provide us with increased opportunities for learning.” This is particularly relevant for vets who may experience bouts of imposter syndrome.
Similarly, an article published in Forbes also explains the benefits that can come from imposter syndrome. The author states fraudulent feelings suggest we are pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Of course, this is considered good for personal growth—even if we do feel like we’re faking it!
Secondly, she adds that it keeps your ego in check. Indeed, no one likes a big head, so feeling like an imposter can help keep you humble. As such, self-doubt encourages you to sharpen your skills and develop your experience.
Want to know more? Find out how to overcome imposter syndrome.
- Newstead, A. Imposter Syndrome: why it’s legit and how to cope with it. ABC News. July 2020. Accessed online via: www.abc.net.au.
- Mak, K et al. Imposter Phenomenon Measurement Scales: A Systematic Review. Front. Psychol, April 05, 2019. Accessed online via: www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00671
- Weston, C. Imposter Phenomenon. Australian Medical Association New South Wales. Accessed online via: www.amansw.com.au/imposter-phenomenon/
- Castrillion, C. Why Imposter Syndrome Can Be A Good Thing. Jan 27, 2019. Forbes. Accessed online via: forbes.com.