Imposter Syndrome drives anxiety

The Imposter Syndrome, an expression first coined in 1978, whereby a person fears being sacked as a result of being ‘found out’ as a fraud who is not really able to do their job, has received heightened media attention over recent years, including a report on the topic in Metro on Monday.


People who suffer from the anxiety-based syndrome often believe they are not capable of doing their job, and that the success they have had so far is a result of luck, fluke, having pulled the wool over their employer’s eyes or the interviewer having taken pity on them. People who feel like an imposter in the workplace live in fear of being ‘discovered’ and worry that they were appointed by mistake. This underlying concern over loss of work, income and stability can end up driving their everyday lives, resulting in high anxiety, an inability to switch off from work and paranoia of not having finished tasks or completed them properly.


According to the report by Metro 70% of people will suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point in their life which, according to Cary Cooper – Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University – is “a phenomenon of our achievement-driven society, where success is paramount.” Perhaps, in this current sociocultural climate, we could accurately include ‘or perceived success’ into Cooper’s observational quote.


A key problem with Imposter Syndrome is that no amount of external success, praise, admiration or reward will beat it. In fact, greater success may only serve to exacerbate the problem, as the fear of being found out also increases, and worriers may feel as if they have further to fall. Harry Potter actress Emma Watson spoke out about her experiences of Imposter Syndrome last year: “[At] any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud,” she said, as reported by Metro. “I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am.”


Constantly feeling as though you are a fake and incapable of doing your job has an incredibly draining effect on a person’s self-esteem, confidence and belief. Negative thoughts and anxiety eat away at your confidence, which can result in stress, anxiety and depression. This, in turn, can lead to negative and destructive behaviours as a means of managing the anxiety, such as increased drinking or drug-taking, isolating oneself from friends, peers and family or avoiding going into work altogether.


At The Grove our counsellors and therapists have a lot of experience of working with anxiety in many guises, including with clients suffering from varying intensities of the Imposter Syndrome, either explicitly or unconsciously. We will provide a space in which you can talk about how you are feeling and the anxiety you are experiencing, and will help you to challenge these destructive thoughts and feelings that pervade into everyday life.


Contact The Grove today for a free initial assessment, so we can start to address the Imposter Syndrome and the underlying anxiety. Your therapist will also support you in managing the anxiety on a day-to-day basis, and in developing a different perspective from which to view your berating thought patterns and tendencies towards always seeing the negative.