“Do I have Impostor Syndrome?” This is such an intriguing question. No one in their minds would want to be called an impostor, a fraud, or a fake. But, what is Impostor Syndrome or Impostor phenomenon?

Impostor Syndrome is generally linked to individuals who are high achievers. People with Impostor Syndrome have feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and self-doubt. They often feel that they are not good enough. 

They don’t have self-confidence, and they question their accomplishments. People with Impostor Syndrome often have extreme feelings of fear and guilt. They feel like they aren’t worthy of success and recognition.

Impostor Syndrome (otherwise spelled as Imposter Syndrome) was first coined in the 1970s. It was first described by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. Imes and Clance have worked with individuals who suffer from depression and discouragement. 

In the Journal of Behavioral Science, this phenomenon applied to women achievers. Their study gained worldwide acceptance. At present, the concept focuses not only on women but across all genders.

Characteristics of Impostor Syndrome

Feelings of Self Doubt and Inadequacy

There is constant self-doubt in persons who experience Impostor Syndrome. You do not have confidence in yourself. You feel like you are unworthy of the praise and recognition.

Having a Perfectionist Inclination

People with Impostor Syndrome are perfectionists. You set very high standards for yourself. When you fail or make a mistake, you feel ashamed and frustrated. You are unable to test your own skills and abilities realistically.

You Are an Overachiever

You expect so much from yourself. You set unreasonable standards and goals for yourself. When you are unable to reach these, you feel disappointed and challenged.

You Don’t Want Responsibilities

Due to fear of failing and making a mistake, you avoid new responsibilities. You don’t want to look for a new job or upgrade your business. You are scared to speak your mind. You know what you want to say but prefer to check it first with your colleagues. You become a procrastinator. You constantly ask for approval from others and panic if you get poor results.

Constant Fear of Judgment and Exposure

You fear exposure for being a fake. You feel like a fraud. You are afraid that you are not living up to the expectations set for you. This constant fear of exposure and judgment from people is damaging. It could worsen your mental health. Having this kind of mindset is a continuous cycle and will damage your self-esteem.

Unappreciative of Personal Successes

You often belittle yourself despite knowing how much effort you have given to the task. You often say, “It was nothing. I had a lot of help.” You don’t acknowledge your personal skill. You think that you won’t be able to develop the same quality of work if you are to repeat it.

What Causes Impostor Syndrome

  • You come from a family of high achievers with high expectations. Your family equates achievements and success with love.
  • You have parents who are very vocal in giving praises and criticisms to their children. Sometimes, they give you compliments. While at times, they are very critical about your work.
  • You receive praise due to the sympathy of others because you come from a minority group. You are considered a minority based on your race, sexual orientation, and alike.

What Triggers Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome usually happens when a person is at the height of their success. Listed below are some examples of successful events that can trigger this:

  • Starting a new business venture
  • First day at your new job
  • Getting a job promotion or recognition
  • You become a first-time parent

Being a high achiever and perfectionist, you feel that so much is demanded from you. You think that you need to give more than 100% to make up for your incompetence. Being an achiever, it is in your nature to dream big and to give your best. Too much or frequent recognition will lead to an increase in self-doubt. This will make you feel that you are a bigger fraud.

Types of Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome can manifest in various ways. It is good to know each type, so you can define where you are at. The five types are listed below:

The Perfectionist

They always want to be perfect and are never satisfied. They focus more on their weaknesses instead of their strengths. They pressure themselves and are very anxious.

The Superhero

These individuals have superpowers for pushing themselves to their limits. You have feelings of inadequacy. What you do is not enough. You work harder than anyone else.

The Expert

They are intelligent people but are never satisfied with their own knowledge. They want to keep learning. These people are highly skilled and technical. But, they belittle their expertise.

The Natural Genius

They are highly ambitious and want to get things done right the first time. They feel frustrated and depressed when things don’t work out on their first try.

The Soloist

They strive for independence. They think highly of themselves that they don’t want help from others. Accepting help from others is considered a weakness and a sign of incompetence.

Impostor Syndrome and Gender

Imes and Clance attributed Impostor Syndrome to high achieving women. In recent years, this phenomenon applies to men. At present, this applies to both young and old who find that they are incapable and inadequate.

The famous Albert Einstein was said to have experienced this. There is a report that Einstein shared he had Impostor Syndrome. He said: “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler”.

Impostor Syndrome at Work

Impostor Syndrome goes hand in hand with social anxiety. People who experience Impostor Syndrome also have social anxiety. They are disconnected from others. They feel that they don’t belong in a team. Social anxiety can fuel Impostor Syndrome.

You are not the only one suffering from this. It also affects the people around you. If you are an employer or supervisor, make sure to watch your employees. Check who is experiencing the Impostor phenomenon among them. 

Employees who have this will definitely be uncomfortable if you give them compliments. They don’t want to be given a new obligation or project. They compare themselves with others. They are vocal about their fear of failure and incompetence.

Can You Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

The first step in getting better is acknowledging you have a problem. Listed below are some strategies to help you overcome this:

Admit Your Feelings

You have to be honest with yourself and admit you have a problem. You can start by writing in a journal. Every time you start to feel self-doubt, write it down in your journal. Also, write down the reactions and responses of the people who gave you praises. 

Reflect on what you have written down. You will realize that their reactions are honest and genuine. Thus, your feelings of inadequacy and self-distrust are baseless. Also, write down positive affirmations about yourself. This way, you can keep track of what is going on with you. Instead of feeling bad about it, challenge yourself to be better.

Talk and Engage With Others

Keep your good friends close. Talk to people who you look up to and trust. You will realize that you should not doubt yourself. You should give yourself more credit. You will then feel better about yourself.

Create a Response Plan

When you start to feel the negative emotions, confront them by giving yourself a pep talk. Talk to yourself in the third person, so it is not directed to you. An example question you can ask is: “How come they didn’t accept the promotion”? This way, instead of feeling bad about yourself, you will be able to rationalize your emotions.

Consider Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Have you heard of the SWOT Analysis? SWOT stands for Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A lot of businesses use this strategy to maximize what they have. You can apply SWOT to you personally. Use this to determine your best qualities and how you can manage your weaknesses.

If you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you will no longer feel inadequate. You will no longer worry about your performance and professionalism.

Don’t Compare Yourself With Others

Nothing good comes with comparing yourself with others. You will only see the good in them while you only see the undesirables in you. Limit your use of social media. Social media projects the flawless lives of others and not their realities. This will only fuel your self-distrust and self-disgust.

Avoid Perfectionism

You are human, and mistakes are part of life. No one is born perfect. Set realistic and obtainable goals for yourself. Getting the work done doesn’t happen overnight. If you can’t finish it today, there is still tomorrow. Don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and improve.

Claim Your Personal Success

Believe and have faith in yourself. You are born special. Give yourself credit for the work you do. Remember, you did the work, and you deserve the praise. Celebrate your achievements. Write these achievements in your journal to remind you of your wins when you are feeling down.

You Are Not a Fraud

Is there such a thing as luck? Maybe. But, it is not luck that you have intelligence and are a highly capable human being. Don’t allow your life to be driven by luck and good fortune. You are the driver of your own life. You should stir in the direction that you desire.

If you or your loved one is struggling with Impostor Syndrome, support and therapy can help sort yourself out. Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) is available to provide support and therapy. When you feel like a fraud, you need dedicated and honest professional help to guide you. KCC is here to be your honest and trustworthy guide. Your journey to be your real authentic self doesn’t have to be lonely. Book an appointment now!

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