Have you ever come across the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
Chances are, you likely have: the term has gained a lot of traction over the last few years, as awareness and knowledge about the concept have become increasingly widespread. For those who are unaware, Imposter Syndrome is defined as ‘the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own effort or skill.’
After recently listening to a podcast focussed on the topic and its causes, I was motivated to find out more about the impact of the syndrome within the Legal profession, and whether there is anything that can be done to both trigger and alleviate its effect within the legal sector in particular.
How common is Imposter Syndrome within the Legal Industry?
Upon researching the impact that Imposter Syndrome is having within the legal profession, I found an article published by Law Society on the subject. They highlighted a study conducted by the Junior Lawyers Division that revealed over 80% of young lawyers have suffered from Imposter Syndrome early on in their careers. Interestingly, this is higher than . These findings indicate that, within the Legal Profession, you are 10% more likely to experience these feelings at some point throughout your career. Equally, . In fact, 38% of high-achievers will suffer from self-doubt.
The common characteristics of Imposter Syndrome
So, what are the main characteristics that commonly result from Imposter Syndrome? The ones that seem to be most common are as follows:
When reading up on the subject there were a number of characteristics of Imposter Syndrome which frequently came up which are as follows:
- An inability to realistically assess your achievements and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your own performance
- Fear not of living up to expectations
- Sense of overachieving
- Sabotaging your own success
- Self doubt
- Setting challenging goals and suffering from disappointment if these goals aren’t met.
So, why is Imposter Syndrome more common in the Legal industry?
In my view, there are a number of factors that might be contributing to a wider prevalence of Imposter Syndrome within the industry. For example, one of the most common personality traits shared by those who suffer from Imposter Syndrome is perfectionism: this is defined as ‘the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.’ Given the nature of work within the sector, and the fact that small missteps can result in huge ramifications, it makes sense that perfectionism is a trait that is inherently shared by a high proportion of professionals within the Legal industry.
Equally, another possible cause for its prevalence could be the competitive nature of the industry when first breaking into it. We have already seen that a high proportion of lawyers who are early on in their career struggle with the effects of it and, as it is only natural to compare yourself to others, it is difficult to reconcile the feeling that you should be achieving the same results as your colleagues and peers.
How can the effects of Imposter Syndrome be reduced?
If any of the details or scenarios described so far have resonated with you, there are two main methods I would recommend so that you can start to tackle and mitigate the effects.
Firstly, remember to actively take the time to reflect on your successes and all that you’ve achieved in your career journey so far. Often, taking the time to reflect will allow you to realise you have achieved a lot more than you may have initially thought. Secondly, try to speak with a peer or mentor about your feelings. I know this is easier said than done but, statistically speaking, the majority of people within your support network will have experienced these feelings at one point or another and will be able to relate to your sentiments. Sharing your experiences is a great way to ease the burden and gain perspective and advice from those around you.
It is clear from the research out there that legal professionals are more susceptible to Imposter Syndrome; whether this is a result of the common skillsets, traits, and requirements that go along with working within the profession is unclear, but there are certainly measures you can take to mediate these feelings and instil a sense of confidence within yourself and your capabilities.