Imposter Phenomenon – “I don’t deserve this.”

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Imagine you have graduated with a diploma or degree in your field. You’ve applied to your top choices of careers and you nailed the interview. You receive the call and you got it! 

It’s the first day of work and you can’t help but feel something: an intense internalized fear comes over you. It tells you that you’re a fraud. You don’t deserve this position – you’re not qualified for this position. Your palms sweat and your mind races as you look around the room at your coworkers wondering when they’re going to call you out. Clearly these people believe you are smarter than you actually are – I mean, come on, you a Social Worker? It must have been blind luck that got you here and it’s only a matter of time before they see through you and kick you out. 

If this sounds like you – or someone you know – then you like so many other people in the world might be suffering from the Imposter Phenomenon. 

It was first described by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes in their 1978 article: The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.People with imposter phenomenon feel as though they don’t deserve the accolades that they have earned and that somehow they got where they are by chance or fluke. They are constantly under attack from persistent internalized fear of being called out as a fraud. 

According to Messages: Building Interpersonal Skills by Joseph A. DeVito, Rena Shimoni, and Dawne Clark, one of the dangers of this belief is that it may prevent you from seeking advancement in your profession, believing you won’t be up to the task. This phenomenon appears to be more common in women than in men (DeVito, Shimoni, & Clark, 2013). 

This phenomenon is not uncommon and for the most part not permanent. Here are three reminders to help you beat the imposter phenomenon:

You’re Not Alone

According to this article , 70% of people experience the Imposter Phenomenon at some point in their lives.

You’re Only Human

You will continue to learn and grow in your career. Many of the negative thoughts of the Imposter Phenomenon revolve around “I don’t know what I am doing”, “I’m not qualified” etc. These are normal thoughts for anyone starting a new position or career – anything really. It takes time to learn everything about your job.

You’ve Earned This

Take a look back on all your successes that brought you to where you are now. Your diploma, your late-night study sessions, extra assignments, letters of recommendation, awards. You have worked hard to be where you are today. Take pride in your accomplishments and do not let self-doubt destroy what you’ve earned. 


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