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18th Nov 2021

Imposter syndrome might actually be making you better at your job

New research reveals a “silver lining” to the unpleasant condition.

Most of us will deal with imposter syndrome at some point in our life.

Whether it’s starting a new job or your first week at college, we’ve all felt that feeling of not being good enough at least once.

Imposter syndrome is defined as a condition where one has feelings of inadequacy in a certain situation. You doubt your abilities, feel like a fraud, and worry that everyone around you will soon realise you are a fraud.

It mostly affects high-achieving people who are actually very adequate but have a hard time accepting their accomplishments and it’s typically associated with low self-esteem and anxiety. And put simply, it absolutely sucks.

But now, as reported by The New Scientist, research has shown that imposter syndrome may not be all that bad as it can “actually contribute to success in some respects”.

The study, published in The Academy of Management Journal, found that when it comes to work, employees who suffer from imposter syndrome have better interpersonal skills than their more confident co-workers – even though they were considered to be just as competent as their peers.

Researcher and psychologist Basima Tewfik said that those with imposter syndrome are “more interpersonally effective” because they are more aware of others.

Basima looked at imposter syndrome in trainee doctors and studied their interactions with fake patients.

Trainee doctors with high levels of the syndrome were more likely to recognise a patient’s pain, ask follow-up questions, show interest, use hand gestures, make eye contact, and generally engage with patients better.

‘People with impostor syndrome were basically the ones you’d want to work with,’ Basima said.

However, despite these new findings, it’s important to note that the research is not suggesting imposter syndrome is a good thing. In some cases, it can also cause individuals to self-sabotage when it comes to work.

As well as this, it can cause high levels of anxiety in those who suffer from it and can even be linked to depression.

“‘There’s no neat takeaway message of ’embrace your impostor thoughts’, because we know there are detriments to your well-being,” Basima says.

“I think the work now is on trying to figure out how we can down-regulate the anxiety that comes from it, so we can start to fully embrace the interpersonal upside.”