The Impostor Syndrome - Do you feel like a fraud?
There is a disquieting trend emerging among women particularly - that of feeling like a fraud at work, along with accompanying fear and anxiety about being "found out".
The Scientific Evidence
This trend has been investigated scientifically only relatively recently, with studies beginning in seventies, with findings that people who suffered from this syndrome had significantly high levels of self-doubt and an inability to internalise their success (Clance & Imes, 1978). Further research has shown that there is a link between Impostor Syndrome and high Neuroticism and low Conscientiousness on Five Factor Model of Personality (which are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, & Neuroticism), and depression and anxiety were particularly important characteristics of those with imposter feelings as well as low self-discipline and perceived competence (Bernard, Dollinger & Ramaniah, 2002). This implies that there is a tendency for those who score high on Neuroticism and low on Conscientiousness to develop this syndrome, not that there is a necessarily causal link between two.
In English Please?
Enough of science, basically what we have is a set of characteristics that you may find rather familiar: depression, anxiety, fear, neuroticism, low self-discipline and a distorted view of reality (the latter particularly through not being able to recognise achievements for what they are and instead attributing them to sheer luck). While that list is still rather technical, if you think that you are not 'worthy' for your position at work and dread being found out, you have classic symptoms of syndrome.
How many people have it and who are they?
What you might not realise is quite how pervasive this syndrome is: it is estimated that 30% of population has some form of this, and that it is cross-cultural to extent that it appears so long as people have gone beyond basic need for survival. You don't see this in people who either are imposters or who have not achieved a high level of success (of course that latter is subjective, so difficult to pin down). Generally there is a higher tendency for women to display symptoms, but it is not unknown for men to develop it. You can particularly see it in high achievers, and higher incidence in women I would suggest might be due to pressure to 'have it all' - career and home life and its associated pressures.
How does it develop?
It has been suggested that it develops when children who are told by their parents that they are wonderful, then meet a challenge (either by being put in a bigger pond, or by simply encountering a subject which they take a while to understand and 'get') and start getting feeling that they may actually not be wonderful, but instead may be average or, worse, stupid. External proof of achievements is dismissed and instead it is assumed that any success is due to luck or through their contacts. Since nothing is ever without a bit of luck, and rarely without asking someone you know for help, this is a really vicious circle.
So what to do?
There are many things that you can do to work on self-doubt and low confidence, among which are reality-checking, gremlin-squishing, affirmations, and swish technique. You may want to look for more information on these and similar techniques: try internet and you might want to look at links on my website: http://www.lifeisvital.com
This is a simple as it sounds: you check whether what you're saying is true or not. If you say that you're not qualified to do whatever it is, check whether you are or not - and give due respect to your training and experience. If you got a 2:1, but constantly wish you got a first (or equivalent situation), give yourself a break! A 2:1 is good. Likewise, if you compare yourself with others all time, catch yourself and stop. It serves no purpose as you can never know what other people are thinking unless they say so (and then you can never know whether that's truth or not). Give yourself a pep talk and stop wasting your time beating yourself up.
Also known as Gremlin-Bashing, this series of techniques allows you to separate that voice in your head that says 'you'll fail' and take a stick to it. Frequently first hurdle for those following this technique is that you don't notice when that voice comes into your head and takes over. You might want to try writing down a list of your skills and failings and seeing which ones really aren't true - ones that make you feel self-conscious or depressed tend to be your gremlin talking.