“Been working as a Senior Manager for the last 5 years, but I feel like I’ve been faking it the whole time. One day they’ll figure it out and fire me!”
Sounds familiar? Well, you’re not alone. Imposter Syndrome is very much real. As per estimates, about 70% of people across the globe have experienced the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lives. That’s 7 out of every 10 people!
Wondering what exactly is Imposter Syndrome and how does it affect you? That’s our topic for today! In this article, we’ll dive deeper into this psychological phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome, and understand its causes, effects, and possible solutions.
Toward the end, I’ll also be sharing my journey with Imposter Syndrome and the methods I used to cope with it. So, without any further ado, let’s get straight into it!
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome, also called Perceived Fraudulence, is an unwavering feeling of self-doubt. It makes you feel unworthy of your achievements and leaves you second-guessing yourself in everything you do.
So, despite the dozens of medals and trophies decorating your walls and proving your competence, you never feel worthy of your achievements and consider them to be “sheer luck”.
Most of us have experienced or will experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in our lives. It affects all genders and ages, and successful personalities are no exception either. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that it’s most commonly seen in high-achieving individuals.
Accomplished writers and successful personalities have admitted to experiencing imposter syndrome in their careers. A popular example is the American poetess Maya Angelou, who dealt with imposter syndrome throughout her literary career.
This excerpt from her book ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is the biggest evidence of her feelings of incompetence.
Isn’t it weird how such a renowned poetess also feels inadequate in herself, despite writing a dozen books?
History of Imposter Syndrome
Even though imposter syndrome has existed for ages, it was introduced to the world in the late 20th century. The term “imposter syndrome” was first developed and coined by famous psychologists Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes in 1978 in their research paper titled “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics Therapeutic Intervention“.
In this paper, they highlighted the three key qualities seen in people with Imposter Syndrome.
- They feel that others have an elevated view of their abilities.
- They live in a never-ending fear of being exposed as “frauds”.
- They always try to downplay their successes and accomplishments.
Do you relate to any of these? Has your self-doubt come to a point where it’s hindering your growth and opportunities? Well, then keep reading because I have some really helpful tips lined up for you!
But before we come to that, let’s understand the reasons why imposter syndrome manifests itself in certain individuals.
What are the Causes of Imposter Syndrome?
Though the exact causes of imposter syndrome are not known to us yet, the following factors may contribute to it significantly.
1) Family and Environment
The environment that a child grows up in could have a great impact on his/her psychology. For instance, if a child is constantly criticized or undermined for being lazy, weak, or incompetent, they may grow up to doubt themselves and lack conviction in their abilities.
There’s a reason Imposter Syndrome is often found in people with a perfectionist mindset. It’s because they tend to set a bar so high for themselves that reaching it becomes next to impossible, despite all of their efforts.
Haven’t we all seen class toppers working like maniacs to achieve 100% scores in every single subject?
Well, setting such high expectations and failing to achieve them sometimes spirals into an endless loop of self-doubt, leaving them exhausted and burned out. And if they do end up achieving them, they still feel they don’t deserve that success!
3) Pressure from Society
This society that we exist in always rewards excellence and achievement. If the neighbor’s kid landed a lucrative job in the US, you are expected to run the race and prove your worth, too!
This may result in unrealistic expectations that most people may not be able to achieve, and end up feeling insignificant. Over time, the feeling of being constantly compared with others may transition into anxiety and depression.
My Journey with Impostor Syndrome
I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome all my life. But back then, I didn’t know there was a name for it! When I reflected on it closely, I could find its occurrence in every domain of my life, be it personal or professional. Here, I’d like to share two incidents from my professional life where imposter syndrome manifested itself in different ways.
1) Struggle with Perfection
I started my professional career from home back in 2020. You wouldn’t believe that in the last 3 years, I’ve logged in to my work exactly at 10 A.M. Not 9:59. Not 10:01. But exactly 10 A.M. Every single time. And it still continues.
Would the world end if I logged in a few minutes late? Well, no. But would my perfectionist mind frame me as an utter loser for failing? Yes, of course!
It was much later that I realized that this quirky and seemingly harmless habit of mine was a manifestation of my unbelievably high standards of perfection. If I didn’t adhere to that voice in my head, triggered a loop of self-doubt that made me feel I was underperforming at work.
2) Navigating the Fear of Failure
In the early days of my career, I was offered the role of junior copywriter at a digital marketing firm. For the screening round, they gave me a simple assignment where I had to write an advertisement for a tea brand.
But I completely froze. A whole week passed by and I hadn’t penned down a single word. I cried myself to sleep several nights, worrying about the assignment submission. It was just a few words, right? It shouldn’t have been that difficult.
But failing at the task was just not an option for me. I found it easier to quit the task rather than watch myself fail at it. I didn’t want to watch my self-esteem hit another low. This is where imposter syndrome manifested itself as the fear of failure.
I know it all sounds like a sad story and you’re waiting for that “aha” moment where I found the light out of the tunnel!
But unfortunately, I don’t have any foolproof methods to cope with this feeling of self-doubt. Imposter syndrome manifests itself differently in every individual. So, the way you manage it may differ as well. Here are a few simple tips that have helped me reduce it to a certain level.
Effective Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Struggling with Imposter Syndrome and can’t find a way out? Try these simple yet impactful tips for slowly restoring your confidence.
1) Talk to People
The simplest way to tackle imposter syndrome is to go out there and talk to people. Consciously voicing your feelings and talking about your self-doubts helps in thinking clearly and introspecting its root cause.
2) Venture Out of Your Comfort Zone
People struggling with Imposter Syndrome can be too hesitant to step out of their comfort zone, because of fear of failure. Exploring new things and trying out new hobbies could be a fun way to start!
3) Challenge your Negative Thoughts
Whenever you come across a negative thought about yourself, try to dive deeper and find evidence to support it. For example, if you call yourself worthless or unproductive, or a loser, try to come up with some solid evidence to support your statement. You’ll be amazed to find how often we fool ourselves with baseless negative remarks.
4) Accept Appreciation
Most people with Imposter Syndrome are taken aback when confronted with positive feedback. It’s difficult for them to believe in appreciation and they usually feel people are “just being nice”.
But wholeheartedly accepting and acknowledging positive feedback can be miraculous! No matter how small or insignificant your successes may be, make a point to celebrate them. Talk to yourself positively. Believing in your abilities will eventually help you cope with feeling like a fraud!
5) Set Realistic Goals
Some people with imposter syndrome tend to be hardcore perfectionists. They set the standards too high for themselves and end up feeling like a fraud when they can’t achieve them. So, the best way out would be to set achievable goals. Break down your goals into smaller steps and appreciate yourself when you reach a milestone.
6) Focus on Progress
Instead of worrying about your shortcomings, focus on how far you’ve come. Paying attention to your progress will help build self-confidence and make you feel better about yourself.
In this article, we delved into the intricacies of Imposter Syndrome, its effects, and some helpful tips to overcome it. Imposter Syndrome is not a great mental place to be in. But fortunately, it’s manageable with positive self-talk, welcoming new experiences, and setting achievable goals.
I hope this information helped you understand Imposter Syndrome on a deeper level and empathize with those who go through it every day. Let’s put an end to second-guessing ourselves and embrace our confident selves, starting today!
Anyway, do you know anyone who is struggling with self-doubt? Have you ever been through it? What are some healthy ways you used to cope with it? I’d love to know your stories in the comments section below.
This is Firefly signing off. I’ll be back with more such insightful articles soon. Till then, take care and keep shining. Cheers! ✨
1) Is Imposter Syndrome a mental health disorder?
Imposter Syndrome is not a diagnosable mental illness. It’s a mental pattern that makes you doubt yourself and feel like a “fraud”. If you constantly go through these feelings, it’s best to consult a mental health professional.
2) Can Imposter Syndrome be cured?
Though Imposter Syndrome cannot be eliminated, you can certainly learn helpful ways to cope with it.
3) How can I help someone dealing with Imposter Syndrome?
The best thing you could do is just listen! Giving the person a space to express their thoughts can work wonders! You can also try to remind them of their achievements and challenge their negative thoughts to help with the self-reflection process.
4) Can Imposter Syndrome ever be good?
Even though the negative aspects of Imposter Syndrome outweigh its positives, there are scenarios where it could be beneficial. For instance, it may encourage you to work harder and persist longer so you can reach the sky-high goals you’ve set for yourself!