Positive self-image: Do you feel like a fake?

The importance of a positive self-image cannot be underestimated. This trait contributes to the success of today’s professionals and reassures today’s employers that their new recruits have the desired attributes and attitudes.


But what if, deep down, you ‘just don’t feel right’, and despite enjoying success and professional recognition, you suffer from chronic feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt?

Sinead Hasson is MD and founder of recruitment company Hasson Associates and here she looks at the impact of a syndrome that can hamper careers and offers some tips on how to deal with it.

‘Imposter syndrome’ has been around for centuries but its impact on the modern workplace is now becoming evident.

It can affect all professionals and it is a little-talked about psychological phenomenon where sufferers are unable to internalise their career accomplishments.

Various research on the syndrome indicates that between 40-70% of successful people consider themselves intellectual frauds, despite external evidence of their competence.

No-one is immune. Imposter syndrome can affect everybody, potentially impacting important relationships with colleagues and clients.

Sufferers are less likely to push to lead a project or ask for a promotion, for example, while conversely, they may be more likely to resign in favour of building their career elsewhere, due to the misplaced feeling that ’it’s easier to move on than to challenge the status quo’.

This can be a costly reality for employers.

While there is evidence to suggest that the majority of sufferers are women (high profile examples include Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey), it would be naïve to think men are not impacted.

It is a problem that limits career development for both genders.

So, now we know what ‘imposter syndrome’ is, who is likely to suffer and some of the potential impacts of this condition, the important question to answer is what can we do to minimise its effects?

Awareness is the most important step to limit the impact of imposter syndrome. Recognising that you are affected by it enables you to manage your own thoughts and limit its undesirable effects.

Negative self-talk, pessimism and feelings of being a fraud should be recognised as soon as they occur, then rationalised as being what they are: simply thoughts, NOT facts.

Those in management positions would do well to keep an eye out for it in their teams so that they can provide reassurance where necessary.

This will bring out the best in people, boost productivity and help to retain talent.

  1. Take proactive steps to become more positive in your self-belief. Make sure you’re paying attention to your achievements and fully enjoy your successes.
  2. Talk about your feelings openly and seek support. Remember you’re not alone.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Mistakes are OK and everybody makes them. Don’t dwell on them. Instead, reframe them as a learning opportunity and move on!
  4. Above all, work in a company that values you. Surrounding yourself with people who embrace and promote your success will help you to achieve your goals.

Overcoming self-doubt can be a challenge but each step will bring you closer to where you want to be.

Join the debate, tweet @SineadH.

*Sinead Hasson is MD and founder of specialist recruitment agency Hasson Associates which she established in 2008. The company specialises in placing marketing and market research/insight professionals in research agencies, brand and strategic marketing consultancies, market analysis and business information providers as well as in-house research teams in the and internationally.

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