According to some estimates, up to 70% of successful people have experienced impostor syndrome, including Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, and Meryl Streep. Unlike other forms of anxiety that sap confidence, the syndrome’s insidious nature means that external success heightens rather than soothes the effects, as sufferers believe they are only ramping up the confidence trick they are playing on everyone (Guardian Online, September '17).
But 70% of 'everyday' people also experience imposter syndrome, so that basically shows us that all human beings suffer from this - but what is it? It's the feeling that you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments? Impostor syndrome—the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
-Philosopher Bertrand Russell
It's a funny old life they say. We spend so much of our lives trying to prove to everyone that we're someone else - the coper, the achiever, the success story, the race winner, the storyteller we forget to appreciate that to get to any given point in our lives we've made decisions ever step of the way. It's not until it's too late in life a lot of the time, that we suddenly realise that if we had an ounce of the confidence we have now when we were aged 10, 18, 35 we could have designed our own world the way we wanted it to play out.
So why, when faced with a promotion, a compliment, an award do so many suddenly experience a lack of self belief? Some would say it's human nature. We are not supposed to be self congratulatory, appearing confident and assured, that's just cocky right?
But perhaps more applicable to most of us reading this, it's your mother, your brother, your best friends. Impostor syndrome doesn't discriminate - it affects all kinds of people from all parts of life: women, men, medical students, marketing managers, actors and executives.
In every day settings, work, socialising, down time, dating, feeling like a fraud happens to the best of us. But reaching the peak, experiencing the lofty heights that success can bring isn't a comfortable experience for many who get there. For a start, there's fewer people to share the feeling with. Sadly millions of us strive to achieve, only to have our dreams dashed by illness, lost love, overlooked at work, just bad luck. It's a stronger person that overcomes all of that to get back in pole position.
But is it personality led? Is it genetic? Maybe the following bullet points from Times magazine can tell us:
“Perfectionists” set extremely high expectations for themselves, and even if they meet 99% of their goals, they’re going to feel like failures. Any small mistake will make them question their own competence.
“Experts” feel the need to know every piece of information before they start a project and constantly look for new certifications or trainings to improve their skills. They won’t apply for a job if they don’t meet all the criteria in the posting, and they might be hesitant to ask a question in class or speak up in a meeting at work because they’re afraid of looking stupid if they don’t already know the answer.
When the “natural genius” has to struggle or work hard to accomplish something, he or she thinks this means they aren’t good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an impostor.
“Soloists” feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud.
“Supermen” or “superwomen” push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life—at work, as parents, as partners—and may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something.
Placing this in the context of Moodbeam, if we were to time stamp every time we felt a sudden change in mood, surely that would go some way to recognising the moment the we start to doubt ourselves and our abilities. A way of channeling good vibes at work, at play or at time of heightened stress would alleviate some of the worried, right?
We shall only find out when there are enough people using Moodbeam who suffer from Impostor Syndrome but what we're really about at Moodbeam is creating positive mental health and coping mechanisms. This would go some way to identifying the highs so we can cope better with the lows that being a human being with in visual personality traits brings.