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Impostor Syndrome in Hospitals

In work settings that are known for copious amounts of stress, such as a hospital, employees in leadership positions tend to doubt their abilities and expertise. In these roles that require heavy and critical decision making, there is a significant amount of pressure to not make mistakes. Sometimes these stressors cause people to believe they are frauds, or that they are not cut out for the tasks at hand. This sensation can be attributed to the impostor syndrome – a popular experience among highly successful people.

The concept was first noticed among highly successful women. When the term was coined in 1978, it was just becoming more common to find women in leadership roles in the workplace. Many of these women who reported feeling this way attributed it to a notion that companies were trying to diversify their workforce and that they hadn’t truly earned their position.

Another demographic that describes a similar sensation are African Americans, who feel that their achievements were through affirmative action, rather than their own success.

The impostor syndrome is not a mental disorder or a personality trait. Instead it can be viewed as an “experience.” Most people will feel as though they are a fraud at least one time in their lives. In fact, 70% of people have reported feeling this sensation in their lives. The impostor experience manifests itself in several different ways and people have reported different types of fraudulent sensations.

The Types of “Impostors”

Valerie Young, an expert on impostor syndrome, has divided impostor syndrome sufferers into 5 different categories. It may be that a sufferer fits perfectly into one of these categories, but it is quite common to be a combination of types. The 5 types are:

  • The Perfectionist – This type is extremely nit-picky about their abilities and won’t finish a task until it is flawless. They have been called micromanagers at times and find it difficult to delegate tasks. Success isn’t always satisfying because they believe that there is always room for improvement.
  • The Superwoman/man – This type hides their self-doubt by over-committing themselves to endless jobs and tasks. They are the people that “do everything” and often too much for their own good. They are often considered workaholics, and spend more time on their jobs than on leisure activities, letting their social lives fall by the wayside.
  • The Natural Genius – This type is pretty self-explanatory. Daunting tasks often come easily to them, but if they have to exert any effort in trying to understand or perform a task, they assume they are bad at it. They are often the people who were considered the “smart” one and didn’t have to try in school.
  • The Rugged Individualist – Similar to the Natural Genius, the Rugged Individualist prefers completing tasks on their own. They feel like a failure if they have to ask any questions and prefer not to ask for help.
  • The Expert – This type constantly feels that they are not worthy of their position, and refuse to believe that they are “experts” even when colleagues tell them they are. They are constantly trying to learn new things so that they never have to appear unknowledgeable.

Societal Impact of Impostor Syndrome

In any work setting, team confidence and efficiency starts at the top and trickles down. If the manager has their own self-doubt, they are not only setting themselves up for failure, but the entire team as well.

In high-stress environments such as a hospital, this is even more dangerous. A team that is faced with life or death situations daily cannot afford to not believe in their abilities. It is crucial to have confidence in your own knowledge so that the team feels equally as confident in their endeavors.

While impostor syndrome devastatingly affects work output, it can also follow you home. If you are constantly worrying and doubting what you are capable of, the stress does not leave you once you step outside of the hospital. These distracting concerns can often creep into your personal life and create issues there as well. It is important to learn to deal with these feelings in order to prevent self-destruction.

Tips for Impostor Syndrome Sufferers

If you believe you are a sufferer of impostor syndrome it is important to be reminded that you are not alone. The statistics show that a significant majority of successful people have suffered from impostor syndrome at least once in their careers. This majority includes greats such as Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and many others. However, there are ways to move past this self-doubt and cope with these fraudulent feelings.

Something that often leads people to suffer from impostor syndrome is self-comparison. People who are always lining up their accomplishments with others’ are putting themselves in a position to never appreciate their personal successes and only focus on the superior accomplishments of others. It leads you into a downward spiral of never feeling good enough. Focusing on personal strengths rather than pitying personal weaknesses is an important factor in success.

Probably the most important element for people with impostor syndrome is lining up a strong support system. It is crucial to express these fraudulent feelings and to have people in your inner circle to remind you that these feelings are inaccurate. The more you hold back because of your self-doubt, the more the world is robbed of your abilities.

You must believe in yourself if you intend to lead others toward success as well. You would not be in the position you are in if you were not deserving. Continue to recite these affirmations until you are confident that you can tackle any obstacle thrown in your direction.