When Success Comes with Handcuffs

by Judith Albright - Date: 2007-04-03 - Word Count: 699 Share This!

When Success Comes With Handcuffs
By Judith Albright

While attending a business conference a few years ago, a friend and I wandered into one of the breakout sessions. Although we had not the slightest idea what the session was about, we hoped to learn something new. We did. The speaker was Valerie Young, an internationally known speaker and lifestyle career counselor who was talking about something we had never heard of: "Imposter Syndrome." The longer we listened the more her words hit home. At that time, both my friend and I held highly visible and successful jobs in a fast paced, competitive and male dominated environment, she in aerospace and I in software manufacturing. Both of us were highly educated with years of experience in our respective fields, yet we both had experienced aspects of what this woman was describing. Surprised, we looked at each other and said, "She's talking about us...and half the people we know." It was a pivotal moment to discover that our periodic feelings of self-doubt, angst and fraudulence actually had a name and that we were not alone.

Imposter or fraud syndrome was first identified in 1978 when psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes conducted a study of successful professional women, all of whom were found to have high levels of self-doubt. They were certain they had gotten where they had, not because of their knowledge, education or skills, but because of contacts, luck, timing, perseverance, personality, or some other fluke. Characteristic of this syndrome, these women were convinced they had actually "fooled' others into thinking they were smarter and more capable than they believed themselves to be. Instead of being reassured by each new achievement, subsequent challenges only served to intensify their ever-present fears of "discovery." A long time teacher posted a message on the Internet that clearly expresses what these women and many others feel: "....sooner or later, someone somewhere is going to figure out I don't know what the heck I am doing."

Today Imposter Syndrome has nearly become an epidemic. It is estimated that 30% of the population has some form of it, particularly highly successful people. Although it was originally associated with women, recent research indicates that equal numbers of men are affected as well. "Imposters" can be found everywhere and come from all walks of life and career levels. Ironically true imposters never experience these feelings, and it's often the smartest people who are affected most.

Imposter Syndrome is quite real, but few people understand what causes it. Internalized attitudes, beliefs, and messages conveyed from an early age by our parents, teachers and other significant people in our lives play a substantial role. Certain dynamics and types of families have also been identified as major contributors:

- Families who impose unrealistic standards
- Families who are very critical
- Families who are ridden with conflict and anger.
- Families whose expectations are in conflict with their
children's career aspirations

The imposter syndrome is like a set of handcuffs that prevents smart and talented people from opening their arms and reaching out toward higher goals and aspirations. Many are never able to move beyond "safe" dead end jobs because they are afraid to take risks. Others never make as much money as they want or get the promotions they could have had because they secretly believe they are frauds who don't "deserve" to have financial success or be rewarded.

Are you among them? Have you ever thought "Who do I think I am?," "I don't know what I'm doing," "I can't do this," "I'm not good enough," or "I don't deserve this"? Have you ever looked around and panicked because everyone else seemed to be better or smarter than you? Do you dread being "found out"? If so, you have the classic characteristics of fraud syndrome.

There is no need to continue living with it. Various therapies are quite effective including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which directly addresses the underlying "programming" that is driving you and eliminates beliefs that no longer serve you. EFT can help you reframe your self image and open the pathways to greater success, secure in the knowledge that you deserve and have earned everything you accomplish.

Judith Albright
EFT Practitioner
215 W. Magnolia, Suite 202
Ft. Collins, CO 80521

Related Tags: women, careers, successful people, self doubt, e, imposter syndrome, imosters, fraud syndrome, career women, family dynamics, fraudulent feelings, high achievers

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