Perhaps you’ve felt that you’re only pretending to be an adult, capable of buying a house or caring for an adult human being when everybody else in your circle is completely sorted out.
“What am I doing here?”
“I don’t belong.”
“I’m a total fraud, and sooner or later, everyone’s going to find out.”
Many top performers have one secret that is not widely known: they feel like they’re committing fraud, and their achievements result from luck.
The psychological issue referred to as the “imposter’s syndrome” represents the perception that you’re an incompetent person despite evidence that suggests you’re highly skilled and extremely accomplished.
In the past, if you’ve felt you’re a fake in the workplace, you’re not the only one. A review of 62 studies about the imposter syndrome found that between 9 and 82% of people have reported thinking about these thoughts at one time or another.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
The idea that you’ve been successful due to luck, not due to your abilities or skills, was first uncovered around 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their research, they suggested that women are the only ones affected by impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the internal belief that you’re not as capable as people believe you are and that you’re an impostor. While it’s a “syndrome,” it is not a medical condition that is diagnosable. The term is typically applied to achievement and intelligence, but it can also be linked to perfectionists and the social environment.
Imposter-like feelings result from differences between your self-perception and how others view your character. While others may praise your skills, you write off your achievements as timing and luck. You doubt that you’ve earned them by merit. You are afraid that others might eventually discover the same fact.
In the end, you push yourself to:
- Do more to achieve
- Keep others from seeing your failures or mistakes.
- You will be worthy of the roles that you have.
- Cover up what you believe is your deficiency in knowledge.
- Alleviate guilt-related feelings of “tricking” people.
The hard work you put in will keep the cycle running. You don’t feel that your future achievements will reassure you; you see them as the outcome of the efforts you’ve made to keep that “illusion” of your success.
Types of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is classified into five basic types:
Imposter syndrome and perfectionism frequently go hand-in-hand. Consider this: perfectionists set excessively high expectations for themselves. Then, when they don’t achieve their goals, they suffer from anxiety and self-doubt. They worry about how they compare to others.
You expect perfection in every project, work, and step, which is not wrong, but as it’s not always a realistic objective, you might not always be able to attain these requirements. Instead of acknowledging the effort you’ve put into an assignment, you may make yourself feel guilty for a few minor errors, be embarrassed, and even see it as a “failure.”
You may even be hesitant to try new things because you think you cannot master them the first time.
Success for this kind of person isn’t always satisfying since they think they could’ve achieved even more. However, that’s not productive or healthy. Being proud of your achievements and acknowledging them is crucial if you wish to be able to stay away from burnout, discover happiness, and increase self-confidence.
Learn to accept your mistakes by viewing them as an integral element in the course of things. You can also push yourself to do something before you’re prepared. Make yourself commit to the project that you’ve been planning for months. It’s true that there’s never a “perfect time,” and your project may never be perfect. The earlier you can accept this the better off you’ll end up.
The Natural Genius
Young people of this kind believe that they are “natural genius.” As such, they judge their ability by speed and ease instead of their effort. When they have to take a long time to learn something, they feel embarrassed.
Imposters of this kind have their own internal standards set extremely high, similar to perfectionists. Natural geniuses do not just evaluate themselves based on unrealistic expectations; they also evaluate themselves on their ability to get things right on the first attempt. If they’re unable to perform something swiftly or efficiently, they sound the alarm.
Are you unsure which one of these applies to you?
Are you accustomed to achieving your goals with little effort?
Are you able to boast of a history of earning “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in all you do?
You were often told when you were a kid to be”the smart one” “smart one” in your family or in your peer group?
Do you resent the thought of having someone as a guide since you are able to handle issues by yourself?
When you’re facing an obstacle, does your confidence wane due to the fact that not doing your best can trigger a euphoria of shame?
Do you find yourself avoiding situations because you’re afraid to do something you’re not a pro at?
To overcome this, consider yourself a work-in-progress. The process of achieving great results requires continual improvement and development of skills for all, not just the strongest individuals. Instead of blaming yourself for failing to meet your incredibly high standards, pinpoint specific, adaptable behaviour patterns that you can develop over time.
The expert is viewed as an imposter since they aren’t aware of everything you need to know regarding a certain area, or perhaps they don’t know every step of a procedure. Since there’s more to be learned and mastered, they do not feel as though they’ve earned the level of an “expert.”
Before you can call your work a success, you need to know all you can about the subject. It is possible that you spend a lot of time searching for more details and are forced to dedicate more time to your primary task.
If you don’t know everything there is to know about a particular subject; it’s possible to think you’re a fraud or incompetent if you fail to answer a question or find the information you’ve missed previously.
You believe that you are competent enough to manage everything by yourself. If you cannot achieve success on your own, you’re not worthy.
If you ask for help from someone or accept assistance in the event that it’s provided, it does not mean you’re falling short of your standards. Since you could not achieve it by yourself and you doubt your skills or ability.
Competence is tied with your ability to succeed in any role you play, such as a friend, student, employee, or parent. Inability to meet the requirements of these roles suggests to you that you are not competent.
To be successful, you must push yourself to the limits by putting in as much effort as you can in each role, which is definitely a good trait, but even this maximal effort might not be enough to eliminate the feeling of imposter syndrome. It is possible to think, “I should be able to do more,” or “This should be easier.”
Do you have a tendency to stay longer at the office, compared to the rest of your colleagues, or even after the point at which you’ve completed your work for the day?
Do you feel stressed when you’re working and think that downtime is a waste of time?
Do you feel you’ve not earned your title (despite many degrees and accomplishments)?
Do you feel called to do more and work longer than your peers to prove yourself?
Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome
Common characteristics of the imposter syndrome are:
- A lack of ability to objectively determine your level of competence and abilities
- The success you have achieved is attributable to external causes.
- Your performance should not be worthy of praise.
- You are afraid you won’t do up to your expectations.
- You are sabotaging your success.
- Set challenging goals and feel deflated when you fail to meet your goals.
Signs and Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome could be a problem if you:
- Have a fear of being perceived as insignificant.
- Feeling overworking will be the best way to meet your expectations.
- Feeling that you are not worthy of affection or attention.
- You’ve tricked others into believing that you’re better than you are.
- Your success is due to luck or charm, networking or misjudgments of others, or any other factors that are not related to your capabilities.
- Take note of “The Imposter Cycle.” This occurs when you begin the task with ferocious planning or procrastination, which is followed by a rush to execute. When you complete your task, you will feel satisfied and content. The cycle repeats as a new challenge is presented and causes feelings of anxiety and doubt.
- A failure to accurately determine your level of competence and abilities
- Do you spend too much time pondering over the smallest of errors or mistakes in your writing?
- Are you sensitive to or even constructive criticism?
- Are you worried that you’ll be found out as a fraud?
- Do you minimize your skills even when you’re actually more proficient than other people?
Causes of Imposter Syndrome
Many people suffering from imposter syndrome have been raised in families emphasizing the importance of success and achievement. If your parents flipped between praise and criticism, then you might have a higher chance of developing the feeling of being an imposter later on in life.
Pressures from society to be successful can be a factor. It’s easy to gauge your self-worth primarily through what you’ve achieved.
In the first research, scientists discovered that imposter syndrome was linked to factors such as family dynamics in the beginning and gender stereotypes. Further research has demonstrated that this condition is present across all people as well as ages and genders.
Research suggests that the upbringing of children and family dynamics may be a significant factor in imposter syndrome. In particular, parenting practices that are characterized as being overprotective or controlling can be a contributing factor to the development of imposter syndrome in children.
New Work or School Opportunities
Also, stepping into an entirely new job can cause impostor syndrome. For instance, beginning college can make you feel like you aren’t a part of the community and aren’t a good fit. It is also possible to experience similar feelings when you start a new job.
A few personality types have been linked to a greater likelihood of suffering from imposter syndrome. Certain traits or characteristics which could play a role include:
- Low self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is the belief that you have the ability to be successful in any given scenario.
The word “perfectionism” plays a key role when it comes to impostor syndrome. It is possible to believe that there’s a perfect “script” for conversations and that you can’t be a fool. You might also have trouble asking for assistance from others or procrastinate because of your high expectations.
Social anxiety and impostor syndrome might overlap. Someone suffering from social anxiety disorder might be unable to feel that they belong in certain social or situations of performance.
The symptoms of social anxiety can trigger imposter syndrome, but it doesn’t mean that everyone that suffers from imposter syndrome also suffers from social anxiety, and the reverse. Social anxiety sufferers may be afflicted with a lack of confidence in their ability. Imposter syndrome can cause people without anxiety disorder to feel anxious-like feelings when they find themselves confronted with situations in which they feel inadequate.
Imposter Syndrome vs. Discrimination
The feeling of being an outsider isn’t always caused by imposter syndrome. In certain instances, it could be due to discrimination in the real sense or exclusion due to bias in the system. Imposter syndrome can cause the sensation of being an outsider due to internal beliefs. When discrimination is present, the sensation of imposter syndrome is caused by other people’s actions.
How Imposter Syndrome Affects You
A lot of people suffering from imposter syndrome do not discuss it because of the fear of being identified as frauds when they openly discuss it.
The feeling of being an imposter can affect your life in many ways:
If you believe that your professional accomplishments are the result of luck and not your abilities, you might not be as likely to ask for a raise or promotion. You may also believe that you’re required to put in the extra effort to achieve the unattainable expectations you’ve set for yourself.
Research has shown that imposter syndrome is a cause of more stress, less job performance, and lower job satisfaction.
Students don’t ask questions or speak out in class if they’re afraid people will judge them as foolish.
Parents often feel unprepared to parent their children at certain times. If you allow these thoughts to prevail, you might have a difficult time making parental decisions because you fear that you’ll cause harm to your child’s future.
If you feel you aren’t worthy of the love you have received from your romantic partner, this self-defeating mindset can cause a breakup.
How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
To get rid of the imposter syndrome, you have to be able to accept your achievements and realize the fact that you’re worthy of them. Some suggestions for doing this include:
Write down a list of achievements you’re proud of. Save notes and emails that praise your accomplishments. Keep them in your wallet to refer to whenever you feel like an utter imposter.
Distinguish your emotions from reality.
If you know you are susceptible to imposter thoughts, be mentally prepared for them. Be prepared to watch and react to them. Be aware that they’re just feelings. Remind yourself that you’re capable of being successful.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Don’t judge yourself based on the achievements of others. For instance, on social media, you can only view highlights of the life of someone else. Keep putting in the work to be the best version of yourself every single day.
Learn about the condition.
Be aware that real fraudsters don’t suffer from imposter syndrome. The simple reality that you suffer from imposter syndrome indicates that you aren’t an imposter.
Speak to someone.
Family and friends can be a great way to normalize your fears and help you remember that your fears aren’t true. You can also consult a therapist who will help you learn strategies to get over imposter syndrome.
Accept yourself while heading for perfection.
Stop setting unrealistic targets for yourself. Recognize that hard work can yield positive results even if they’re not perfect.
Keep in mind that if you feel like you are an imposter, it means you’ve achieved some level of accomplishment in your life, which you attribute to luck. What is wrong with this? Consider today your chance to accept your abilities and capabilities and turn this feeling into gratitude. Consider what you’ve achieved throughout your day, and be thankful for the achievements you have made.
Don’t be stifled by your fear of being caught out. Instead, let yourself be a part of this feeling and explore the root of it. Do Better, Be Better.