Is Fraud Syndrome Slowing You Down?

If you don't feel as though you're “worth it,” Fraud Syndrome might be slowing you down.

When it comes to making more money, whether you are asking your boss for a raise, or whether you are toying with the idea of raising your rates as a freelancer, you might be plagued with concerns that you don't actually deserve that raise.

Even if you have shown competence in your job, and even if others turn to you as an expert, you might still struggle with asking for more money, or taking on a role with greater responsibility. You might even worry that, at some point, you will be unmasked and everyone will see that you've been?pretending to be so great all this time.

This phenomenon, according to my husband (and others in the field of psychology), is known as Fraud Syndrome. It's also sometimes known as Impostor Syndrome.

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How Fraud Syndrome Can Slow Your Career

Even though this fear has a name, it's not actually recognized as a psychological disorder, so you won't find it in the DSM-IV. In fact, nearly everyone probably feels this way at some point in their lives. The fear that you aren't living up to the hype, and that everything is going to fall apart at any moment when the jig is up, is part of what pushes people to do great things.

You have to be able to overcome that fear.

Fraud Syndrome can slow down your career when you let it paralyze you:

  • You don't ask for that raise or that promotion because you feel as though you aren't quite good enough to deserve it.
  • Instead of taking a risk and applying for a more challenging position, you worry that others will see through you and you'll fail, so you stick with your current, unfulfilling position.
  • You are afraid of taking a more public role in your company, or in promoting yourself, because you don't think you can stand up to the scrutiny.

Most people (only the most hardened megalomaniacs probably never feel this way) can probably relate to these feelings. What's hard is when you let your Fraud Syndrome slow you down. You might not make as much as you truly deserve, or you might miss out on opportunities in your way.

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How to Overcome Fraud Syndrome

So, how can you overcome Fraud Syndrome? Well, there's no way to banish it from your life. And, even if you could, would you want to? Properly channeled, Fraud Syndrome, like many fears, can actually spur you to improve yourself. Just don't let it turn into a futile quest for perfection.

As you work to overcome Fraud Syndrome, here are some things you can do to remind yourself that you really have accomplished some great things:

  • Before going in for a salary negotiation, look up what others with your experience and knowledge make. This is standard advice, but it can be helpful. Really look at it, and look at the high end for your market. Realize that you really have done what's necessary to take the next step and get a raise.
  • Take a few deep breaths when you start worrying that everything's going to go bad because your audience (whether you're making a presentation, asking for a raise, or writing a particularly difficult blog post). Deep breathing is a great tool in many situations, since it calms you and allows you to cut through the fear.
  • Just go out there and do it, even if you are scared. It's the classic fake-it-till-you-make-it approach. Chances are that you've already made it — even if you feel as though you are faking it. Add a little confidence to your life, even if you don't feel particularly confident, and you'll see improvements in how you feel about yourself.
  • Don't let failure get you down. All of the great entrepreneurs, CEOs, and even investors have had failures. View failure as a learning experience. Start shifting your mindset so that you don't fear failure as much. Yes, you want to succeed, but you also need to realize that it's not the end of the world if you make a mistake.
  • Learn to set reasonable expectations. Often, Fraud Syndrome goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. Rather than assuming that things have to be “just right” before you ask for a raise, set expectations that make sense.
  • Remember your accomplishments. Sometimes, when I feel like at anytime people are going to realize that I suck as a writer, I stop and think: I have a lot of clients. They rarely ask for revisions. They pay me for what I do. I can't be?that bad. Remember your great ideas, successes, and accomplishments, and realize that you probably?do deserve what's next.

Money TreeFraud Syndrome is something we all have to deal with at some point. It's natural. However, you can't let it rule your life when it comes. You have to get out there and put it on the line. It's hard, but if you never try, if you let Fraud Syndrome hold you back, you might never know how great your career — or your business — could have been.

2 thoughts on “Is Fraud Syndrome Slowing You Down?”

  1. Kevin@OutOfYourRut

    Hi Miranda – I’m glad you wrote this post, and even happier that the syndrome has a name!

    I think a lot of it comes from our school experiences. We always had to stretch and struggle to prove we were worthy of an A. Then there were those sadistic teachers and professors who were reluctant to give A’s for fear students would stop trying.

    But I think it also comes down to J.D. Roth’s observation that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. We think that because we’re not perfect, we don’t deserve more than we have.

    Something I’ve been learning in my advancing age is that there are no true experts in any field, only practitioners. But we can get caught up in the idea that we need to be experts, and think less of ourselves because we really aren’t. All we can be is the best practitioners we can, and that’s really all we need to be. Expert status is perfection, and that can never truly be obtained.

    For my own part, I still can’t believe anyone even pays me to write – I have no writing background whatsoever! How does that even happen?

    Life is such an incredible journey, isn’t it?

    1. Miranda Marquit

      I think you make a great point. If you’re so caught up in the idea that you have to be perfect before you are “worth” anything, then you end up never feeling good about what you do.

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