Feel Like a Phony? Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome makes you think that you’re all alone in the world. You go through life feeling like you’re only successful on the outside. Worse, it feels as if everyone around you will eventually find out your secret.

It’s not that you’ve got anything terrible to hide. It’s just that you feel like a fraud. Of course, you appear to be doing just fine in life. Nevertheless, you feel like it’s all a thin veneer that could crack at any time. Underneath, you just don’t measure up, and you’re certain that people will discover this about you. You aren’t alone. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that 70% of people have dealt with imposter syndrome symptoms at some point in their lives. Furthermore, there are things that you can do to get a grip on the way that this issue impacts your life.

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Dr. Pauline Rose Clance coined the term “imposter syndrome” in the late 1970s. She is a high-achieving successful Ph.D., and has she also personally experienced the condition. She explains on her own website that she noticed it in graduate school.

Clance didn’t trust that she really belonged there or could succeed amongst other bright students. For example, she was always certain that she would fail every exam. Her peers knew that she wouldn’t, and they would get annoyed with what they perceived as excessive worrying.

This is one aspect of Imposter syndrome. Other symptoms include:

  • Certainty that any personal success was just luck and can’t be repeated
  • Inability to ask for help due to fear of exposing your own weaknesses
  • Inability to take a compliment
  • Fear that others will see through your façade
  • Feeling like a fraud, as though you haven’t really earned your accomplishments
  • Feeling out of place
  • Perfectionism
  • Persistent self-doubt and insecurity
  • Pushing yourself to work harder, be better, due to underlying insecurity
  • Shame if you don’t master something quickly
  • Undermining your own achievements

In other words, you have achieved legitimate success of some type, but you feel like you don’t deserve it. Furthermore, you fear that the people around you know that or will soon find out.

Who Suffers from Imposter Syndrome?

People of any age, background, or profession can suffer from Imposter syndrome. Previously it was believed to be more common among women, but recent research indicates that’s not the case. That said, it’s particularly prevalent among high-achievers. As a result, it can co-exist with anxiety, especially among perfectionists with high-functioning anxiety.

People who are living or working in environments where they are the minority may experience imposter syndrome. Dena Simmons in her 2015 Ted Talk discusses how students of color have this experience as they advance in their education. They see fewer people that look like them in high positions, and therefore they internalize that feeling that they don’t belong there.

7 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome impacts your life significantly. It can cause anxiety, stress, and depression, among other things. You may find that you don’t aim for certain goals because you believe others will find out that you can’t actually achieve them. You may self-sabotage in any number of ways. However, you can work to overcome imposter syndrome. Here are seven ways to start battling it today:

  1. Make a list of all of your life’s accomplishments. Ask trusted loved ones to help. Review it frequently.
  2. Volunteer or teach skills to others. Focusing on what you can give is a great way to get your mind off of your own perceived inadequacies.
  3. Try to do one thing imperfectly each day. You’ll teach yourself it’s okay to be less than perfect.
  4. Interrupt yourself whenever you notice that you’re comparing yourself to others.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Being present in the moment helps quiet your mind’s negativity.
  6. Keep a daily journal of your thoughts. It’s better to just get them out of your head.
  7. Recognize that you have Imposter Syndrome. Moreover, many other people do as well.

One of the most effective ways to overcome Imposter syndrome is through therapy. Individual therapy can help you address your underlying issues. Furthermore, group therapy can provide you with an opportunity to practice revealing yourself to others in a safe setting. Many people find that it’s helpful to meet others with imposter syndrome. It reduces the feeling of isolation while also setting a more realistic bar for success. For further support and information about group therapy, read more here.

2019-02-13T16:34:20+00:00