If you feel inadequate and continuously doubt yourself, you are not alone. Many individuals experience the phenomenon known as imposter syndrome, where they fear of being exposed as a fake or fraud. Psychologists initially identified the term impostor syndrome in the late 70s based on individuals disregarding, ignoring, or minimizing their capabilities. In this article, we’re going to examine what imposter syndrome is, identify the symptoms of it, how to overcome impostor syndrome, and more. So let’s dive in.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the fear and belief of being found out as a fake or phony in your craft or career. A professional who has recently learned a new skillset, despite a long career behind them, might feel people see through their ability.
People who work with ultra-talented people, such as Olympians, executives, or celebrities, might feel their skillset doesn’t match up to theirs, which is where the feeling of being an imposter creeps in. High achieving women are more likely to experience this than men, though everybody will experience imposter syndrome at one time or another.
Symptoms of imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is characterized by severe self-doubt and inadequacy that may leave individuals fearing that they will eventually be exposed as fakes. Although not officially classified as a mental disorder, this state of mind can have adverse effects on people’s work and careers if allowed to persist. It affects a wide range of people, regardless of their accomplishments. Many successful entrepreneurs and celebrities have shared their experiences on public platforms.
Dynamics within the family from an early age and societal stereotypes later on in life have been cited as contributing factors to the phenomenon. Even with remarkable educational and professional achievements, many women contend that they are not really smart, and anyone who thinks they are has been tricked.
In regards to the link between men and the syndrome, research shows that it happens at lower intensity and regularity levels. However, ongoing studies reveal that men who work under the pressure of society’s demands may experience it more due to the expectations placed on them.
Several symptoms look out for, including low self-esteem, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and doubting your accomplishments. It is not unusual for people who experience the syndrome to say how fake they feel doing a specific job or not deserving of a position.
- Setting extreme goals and feeling disappointed when you don’t deliver
- Fearing that you will not meet expectations
- Criticizing your performance
- Crediting external factors for your success
- Being unable to evaluate your skills and competence
- Fear of failure
Reasons why you might have imposter syndrome
Various factors can lead to the development of the imposter phenomenon. For instance, you may have been brought up in a family that prioritized success or exposed to extreme levels of criticism and praise as you grew up. It is also common for people to feel like they are incapable or do not belong in a particular place when taking on a new responsibility, such as a promotion.
Internalizing the idea that you must achieve for you to be accepted can lead to a vicious cycle that stems from childhood memories or personality traits such as anxiety.
Diagnosing imposter syndrome
Although imposter syndrome can motivate some people to achieve more in their lives, this is usually outweighed by ongoing frustration. You may work much harder than you need to or plan excessively to ensure that nobody discovers you’re a phony.
This leads to an endless cycle of thinking that you achieve certain things because you were lucky or in the right place at the right time. The challenging aspect of this situation is that performing well does not change how you feel. Even when you excel during a presentation or successfully host an event, you keep questioning your self worth. The more you attain, the more you feel like a con.
If you suspect that you have the syndrome, consider asking yourself several questions based on the following:
- Minimizing your expertise, including within areas where you are actually more competent than others
- Feeling like you will eventually be found out as a fraud
- Being extremely sensitive to all forms of criticism
- Attributing your accomplishments to factors such as luck
- Stressing over minor errors when you work
When your thoughts are dominated by feelings of being an imposter or fraud, it is essential to identify practical ways to overcome them. The self-sabotage, self-doubt, and negativity that usually characterize the syndrome can adversely affect different aspects of your life.
How to Overcome Imposter syndrome
Overcoming imposter syndrome involves facing the beliefs that are deeply entrenched within you. This may be challenging, primarily if you have never acknowledged them. Consider whether you value yourself and why you feel the need to be perfect for gaining acceptance from other people.
While this syndrome can motivate you to do more, it can also be harmful, resulting in burnout, anxiety, and general discontent. When any possible benefits are outweighed by the risks, there are some methods you can use to effectively move past feelings of not being good enough.
1. Change your mindset
You have to stop thinking like an imposter if you want to stop feeling fraudulent. This consists of changing the way you perceive fear, failure, and ability. If you encounter an opportunity that you think is out of your reach, rather than telling yourself you have no idea what is going on, take it as a chance to learn. You can try this meditation for insecurities or the confidence meditation below to change your mindset.
2. Recognize the causes
Think about why you actually feel inadequate. The imposter syndrome phenomenon is often described in a personal context without considering how experiences during childhood or at the workplace can affect a person’s beliefs. You need to figure out how you feel about yourself and your skills to determine whether they are rooted in inner principles or other sources.
Focus on thoughts that inspire, guide, and preserve you instead of those that hold you back and discourage you. It can be easier to know your value and become more confident when recognizing the role that other people’s outlook plays in your life.
3. Understand that you are not unusual
People usually think that lack of confidence is the only proof they need to establish their imposter status. However, struggling to convince yourself that you are worthy of a specific job or accomplishment is not abnormal. It is natural for many individuals to feel unsure but instead of thinking you do not belong somewhere, accept that you face a new challenge that requires hard work. Thinking “Why am I not good enough” or “What is wrong with me?” is a normal experience but that doesn’t mean you should obsess over it.
4. Avoid comparisons
With each precious moment you waste on comparing yourself to someone else, you will probably find a reason to diminish anything you have achieved and fuel thoughts of not belonging or being inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others. During interactions, it is a good idea to pay attention to what people are saying and learn from them rather than focus on whether they are better than you.
5. Talk about your feelings
Therapy is among the recommended approaches to overcoming the symptoms. It is useful for finding out where the beliefs you have about yourself come from. Share your negative thoughts with other people regarding how you feel. Unreasonable anxieties usually become worse when they are disguised and not discussed.
Excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and imposter syndrome. Attempting to create perceptions of who you are that do not match your reality can make you feel faker than you already do. Social media is an excellent tool for communication, networking, and gathering information. However, using it to portray yourself unrealistically or exaggeratedly can work against you. Try a social media detox if you feel like your social media use and consumption is harming you.
7. Take your time
Instead of doing everything correctly, take a step back, and do things at your pace. Reward yourself along the way and appreciate every moment you take an active step towards your goals. For instance, contributing an idea for a project means that you are getting involved in the process.
8. Admit you have Impostor Syndrome
It’s easy to have impostor feelings. However, for the sake of your mental health, consider admitting that you have imposter syndrome. The Journal of Behavioral Science found that high achieving women are likely to still have imposter syndrome. So, take a look at all your accomplishments to realize that this is just the impostor phenomenon and nothing more. Knowing your own abilities is an imposter part of realizing that you’re not an impostor. You don’t need to be a natural genius to have enough talent and skill to do a job.
And to be frank, early family dynamics rather than your actual skills play a bigger role in causing someone to imposter syndrome. So, if you have imposter feelings, consider whether your parents ever told you that you were bad, not good enough, or wrong a lot.
9. Partner with a mentor
If you feel like a fraud, consider partnering with a mentor. A person believes what other people tell them more than themselves. So it’s crucial that you hear about your own merits from other people. Young adults can look for industry experts or mentorship programs that help them develop their skillset. Graduate students can look towards professors as role models. Employees can look up to a boss that they admire. The only way to beat the impostor cycle is to find a mentor who believes in you so you can fuel feelings that are positive about yourself.
10. Thank people for praise
Those who have imposter syndrome need to thank people when they receive praise. You can even say, “Wow, thank you for that positive feedback. I’ve been experiencing imposter syndrome lately and this helps my mental health so much.” The impostor phenomenon is killed with constantly praise. So the more you hear it, the more you start to believe it. Constructive criticism still has its place in bringing you to higher levels of performance. So, don’t be discouraged by it. If imposter feelings arise from constructive criticism, it’s likely that you’re not used to hearing negativity or possibly that you’re hearing too much of it.
However, you should accept the balance of praise and constructive feedback. It’s the balance of the two that make you great at what you do. Remember, the more you praise the more you’ll get praise. If people constantly see you lifting up those around you, it’ll be harder for them to treat you differently. Of course, there will always be people intimidated by other people’s success or friendliness. But it’s better to be kind in feedback, especially in social interactions.
11. You don’t have to be the best to be great
The good news is that your self worth is higher than your imposter syndrome is allowing you to feel. If you always focused on academic achievement and struggle with achieving the same thing in your career it can be hard. But remember you don’t have to be the best to be great. Having self confidence will allow you to overcome adversity and overcome defeat in a professional environment.
Strive to be the best you can be in all that you do, you’re still wonderful whether you come in first place or dead last. The goal should be to show up and try your best. There are always going to be people who did it better than you or younger than you. Instead, focus on being the best you can be. Developing imposter syndrome when you’re trying really hard makes no sense. If you’re putting the effort in, you’re nowhere close to an imposter. Your imposter feelings aren’t real. You don’t need to be a champion to be world class in your industry.
12. Create an Accomplishments Folder
Imposter feelings and imposter syndrome are hard to experience when you know what you’ve accomplished. People won’t always tell you you’re amazing, even if you are. Some may be intimidated or threatened by you. So, instead screenshot your accomplishments and place them in a folder called “Accomplishments Folder.” These could be screenshots of kind messages you’ve received from fans, coworkers, friends, or family members. You could also include media clippings, data metrics, or other figures that show your accomplishments.
Every month take a look at what you’ve accomplished so you can rest assured that you’re doing a great job. High achievers who did this will be able to overcome the small mistake they’ve made that leaves them feeling stuck. In a work context, this could also help with feelings of feeling like a fraud, because when it’s time for a performance review, you could show data on what you’ve accomplished. Overcome your fear of failure when you have accomplishments built up for years on end of your high notes.
13. Challenge your inner critic
Your perceived fraudulence is merely a state of mind caused by your inner critic. The voice in your head is the reason why you have imposter syndrome. It might’ve been put in there by a parent, childhood bully, or former coworker, but now you let the thought run through your mind as if it was your own idea.
You can overcome imposter syndrome by challenging your inner critic by replacing ruminating thoughts with happy thoughts. Another tactic is to ask someone for feedback about your competence in your craft. You could also take a look at your accomplishments folder to see all the things you’ve done in your career that got you to this point.
14. Learning more is rewarding
If you have imposter syndrome, remember that learning can still be rewarding. If you feel you aren’t there yet, no worries, you can still learn a lot. You should never stop learning. Keep making adjustments, taking courses, and trying new things so you can continue to get better for years to come.
If you feel you have “personal incompetence” all it takes is reading a book, talking to an expert, or learning from practice to get to master level. Your feelings can change and things perfectly go your way if you dedicate yourself to never stop learning. You’ll overcome your fear if you acknowledge that learning is part of the game. And that fear will transform into confidence and “good luck” which makes you succeed in the end.
15. You played a starring role in your success
Don’t let feelings of being an ethnic minority, gender differences, or mental disorders make you feel like you’re not successful. Gender bias and perceived discrimination can make it harder to break out of minority groups. While systemic racism, gender stereotypes, and all types of discrimination are very real, if you think like a victim, you’ll never be a champion. Many people have setbacks in life that hold them back mentally. It’s the ability to think, “No, I’m going to succeed, no matter what” that gets you to the next level. Imposter syndrome is a thought or a feeling. It’s not based on any real fact.
You are the reason you’re successful today. Look to the people who made it, who’ve walked a similar path to you. If they’re approachable (or not famous), you can reach out to them and ask them how they did it? What books did they read? What courses did they take? How did they break glass ceilings and push forward to achieve the success you’re working towards? You can make it and you will succeed in your own way.
Imposter syndrome is discussed among people ranging from politicians to Hollywood celebrities. It refers to the psychological experience of feeling successful because of luck and not due to your qualifications or talent. Anyone can be affected by it, whether you are a business executive, actor, student, man, or woman.
Many people deal with doubt throughout their lives. The key is to prevent self-doubt from taking over your existence. Believe that you deserve your achievements. Equipping yourself with the tools you need to combat negative thinking and sabotaging influences is an essential step towards a fulfilling and happy life.