Well, do you?
Do you feel like an imposter, pretending to be someone you’re not? Like at any moment you’ll be found out? Like people will discover that you’re a fraud?
And when they do, you’ll be discarded. Fired. Cast aside?
That’s Imposter Syndrome.
I’m fairly confident that most of us have had this idea flash through our minds on one occasion or another because it’s quite normal.
But for some of us, we can be bombarded by these thoughts of being ‘found out’ to the point that it sabotages our relationships, careers and ability to accomplish what we want to in our lives.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
According to Psychology Today, Imposter syndrome is characterized by an underlying belief that the person “is undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.” It may be that the person is highly accredited or has several degrees, but this feeling exists regardless of the accomplishments.
Basically Imposter Syndrome is the idea that you have succeeded based on luck, and not because of merit, talent or qualifications.
What does an Imposter Look Like?
While there are varying degrees to which people identify with this concept, there are different ways in which this manifests.
- The Perfectionist: Sets extremely high expectations for themselves, and even if they meet 99% of their goals, they’re going to feel like failures. Any small mistake will make them question their own competence.
- The Expert: Feels the need to know every piece of information before they start a project and constantly look for new certifications or training to improve their skills. They won’t apply for a job if they don’t meet all the criteria in the posting, and they might be hesitant to ask a question in class or speak up during a meeting at work because they’re afraid of looking stupid if they don’t already know the answer.
- The Natural Genius: Their struggle or hard work to accomplish something, forms a belief that they simply aren’t good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in the effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an impostor.
- The Soloist: Feels like they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud.
- The Superman or Superwoman: This person is individualistic and prefers to work alone. They push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life—at work, as parents, as partners—and may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something.
What are the Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome?
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Failure to feel a sense of accomplishment over your success
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
What’s the problem with Imposter Syndrome?
The issue lies in the anxiety it causes for the individual. The constant cycle of trying to do well, succeeding but attributing that success to luck or other external factors, sets the individual up for anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem. If you’re constantly questioning “what gives me the right to be here”, it will significantly impact your feelings of confidence which in turn, will affect your performance and accomplishments. This inability to internalize your success, leads to a change in your fundamental beliefs about yourself.
Why do People Experience Imposter Syndrome?
There’s no single answer as to why these ideas develop. Suggestions have been made that childhood memories, being inferior to a sibling or being made to feel that you were never good enough, can leave this kind of lasting impact. Some researchers suggest that this tendency develops because of anxiety while others suggest that fostering a sense of confidence in a child works against feelings of being an imposter.
How to Overcome Feelings of Being an Imposter?
- Acknowledge your thoughts. Creating awareness around the thought and putting it into perspective by simply observing it as opposed to engaging in it. Questions like “does that thought help or hinder me” are powerful tools in seeing the behaviour or idea for what it is.
- Reframe your thoughts. The difference between someone struggling with Imposter Syndrome and someone who’s not is simply their ability to think differently about a situation. Learning to value constructive criticism is a skill that will build resilience over the long run.
- Share your feelings. Turn to a trusted friend or colleague and let them know how you’re feeling. There’s a good chance that they’ve felt the same thing and often just the knowledge that you’re not alone can be enough to challenge those thought patterns. When you give voice to this kind of negative belief, it can be enough to change how you see it and the power it has over you.
- Question your thoughts. Assess your abilities so that when the Imposter rears its’ ugly head, you can contradict it with your list of accomplishments. Question whether your thoughts are rational or even correct. Does it make sense that you are a fraud, given everything that you know?
- Stop Comparing. Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on the other person. Be genuinely interested in learning more about others.
- Limit social media. I know that I’m not going to be popular for this one, but overuse of social media can be related to feelings of inferiority. Constantly comparing yourself to images that simply DO NOT PORTRAY REALITY is daunting, crushing and contributes to a low sense of self-esteem and self-worth. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn’t match who you really are or that is impossible to achieve, it will only make your feelings of being a fraud worse.
- Allow the emotions to exist. Don’t fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. It’s only when you acknowledge them that you can start to unravel those core beliefs that are holding you back.
Most people experience doubt but the key is to not allow that doubt to control your actions. Challenge that thought and unravel the beliefs behind it. Journal all of it.
PS: If you need a call, please reach out.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.