Why are we so reluctant to call ourselves successful?

According to research, 70% of people will at some point struggle with impostor syndrome, some for just a few weeks and others for their entire lives. Links have been found between the syndrome and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, but it’s not a sole cause for it.

And it doesn’t necessarily transpire when you’ve reached the peak of your career (in other words, imposter syndrome is not reserved for business owners, CEOs or people in high-powered positions).

A common symptom among people who suffer from it is an inability to accept positive feedback – or rather, to accept that this feedback is accurate.

Marian Kwei, 37, is a blogger and celebrity stylist. She has been featured in publications such as Huffington Post, Vogue Italia and New York Post, and styled people for the red carpet – but will still change the subject if someone comments on her success.

‘My friends say I’ve realised my dreams, having styled people for the red carpet, but to me I feel as though I haven’t because I don’t see what I’ve achieved,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I’ve felt that way in all my roles that I’ve ever done. Even when I’ve achieved success, to me it seems that I haven’t yet and I get embarrassed when people say so.

‘I have an issue grasping that I’ve actually “arrived”, as it were.’

Unsurprisingly, impostor syndrome tends to be more common in women.

However, a recent study says that while women are more likely to suffer from it, men have more ‘severe reactions’ to it, such as anxiety.

‘Lots of cultures don’t encourage boastfulness and admitting success is often seen as an act of arrogance and bragging,’ Karen Kwong, founder of the coaching business RenOC, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Additionally, there is a fear that if one admitted success, any future failure would be seen as “greater” because the fall is from a “higher” level.

‘It’s always more common among women.

‘Women tend to wrap up talking about their achievements in a “we” and collaborative form and tend to downplay achievements.  Men tend to talk up their achievements as down to their own abilities and are more overtly ambitious about their aims (e.g. even if not wholly qualified, they’ll go for a job whereas women tend to only go for roles where they can tick every box.

‘The language men use also tend to “excite” leaders more – e.g. “I led X to Y” – whereas the language women use tend to the more “soft skills” end, such as “we collaborated” and “together we” – thereby subtly suggesting they’re unable to do things on their own and it wasn’t particularly down to their skills and abilities.’

Regardless if you’re male or female (or gender-neutral) you’re not doomed.

Imposter syndrome is often tied to your self-worth and self-esteem, and both of these can be worked on.

It might be helpful to break your success up into pieces, and focus on the facts. Or, talk to someone you trust about your issues – a friend or even a mental health professional, if you’d prefer a neutral space.

Do not compare your life or career to others’ and accept that there will likely always be someone who is better at something than you are.

Also, try to recognise where your impostor syndrome stems from. For instance, are you a perfectionist or do you lack trust in others to help you complete a task?

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about your success.

Karen said: ‘Be factual and realistic, but yet ambitious about your successes.

‘If you don’t talk about them (vs boast about them) then no one will know what you’re capable of. Because you are the only person who can truly know yourself and your strengths well – no one else!’

And if you feel the fear of ‘what if I lose my success one day’ creep up in your mind, simply squash it down.

Failure is a part of success, and does not take away from what you’ve done up until that point.

Trying your best is success – own it.

MORE: What to do if you hate your job

MORE: Why imposter syndrome makes me feel like I’m faking my mental illness

MORE: Dealing with Impostor Syndrome: The secret to becoming a ‘proper grown up’ is realising that you will never actually be one

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