What Is Imposter Syndrome And How To Overcome It
Maybe you don't know it, but the set syndrome is a limiting condition that makes you feel like your hard-earned accomplishments aren't deserved.
You are a person that everyone admires. Yet, you don’t feel deserving of your achievements, nor of the high regard of those around you. You may have imposter syndrome, which is really limiting to your life.
This condition applies to every area of life, to all those contexts in which you may feel inadequate and which lead you to perceive yourself as a “cheater”, who arrived somewhere by pure luck and not by commitment. Let’s try to understand it in detail and find out how to overcome it.
How do you recognize imposter syndrome? By analyzing the characteristics that distinguish it. To be clear, if you are afflicted by it, you will be unable to realistically evaluate your skills and in most cases, even if you achieve excellent goals, you will attribute your success to external factors.
You will also always be afraid of not living up to the expectations of those around you and you will always find what you do insufficient, in any field. Impostor Syndrome, on the other hand, causes you to fear success. How come?
Unfortunately, because you continue and you will continue to perceive it as undeserved and you will always accompany it with anxiety that others “discover” that you are not really what they think.
For the first time, two psychologists gave a name to this syndrome: Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. In the 1970s, the two doctors noted that many colleagues experienced this type of psychological experience.
To date, little has changed: often imposter syndrome is a prerogative of women and is a consequence of (too many) gender stereotypes that still permeate what they can do, not do, experience, live or feel. The good news? You can overcome it.
Imposter syndrome manifests itself in several ways. There are at least five types, which translate into as many ways of doing and being:
The natural genius imposter type is someone for whom everything has always come very easily. This is someone who was perhaps very high performer in school, without really trying. Or had some early career success. They believe that things should be effortless, and come easily to them. If they don’t, they feel like a fraud. For this reason, they are often reluctant to try new things.
I have also seen this type referred to as the superhero or superwoman imposter type. The superhuman imposter type wants to be good at EVERYTHING. It’s not enough to be good in one area of your life – they want to be the perfect employee, manager, friend, partner, child, parent… If they’re not successful at everything, they feel like a fraud.
The perfectionist is the type of imposter who doesn’t accept mistakes. They set extraordinarily high standards for themselves (and for others!). If they make a mistake or other type of ‘failure’ they feel like a fraud. In order to prevent themselves from being exposed as a fraud, they engage in over-planning, over-preparing, and over-thinking.
The expert imposter type, ironically, doesn’t like to be referred to as an ‘expert’. To them, expert implies that they have all the answers, that they have reached a level where they know everything there is to know. If they are asked a question and they don’t have the answer, they feel like a fraud. You’ll find them constantly doing just ‘one more course’ or qualification.
The soloist imposter type likes to do things alone. They believe that if they get help then their successes and accomplishments are not their own. They refuse to ask for help, but interestingly, they also refuse help when it is offered to them.
In fact, whatever type afflicts you, you should keep one thing in mind: if you feel “fake” or if you consider yourself a “cheater” it obviously means you have some degree of success. Try to see it from this perspective, looking at what you’ve built: it’s the first step to feeling gratitude towards yourself.
This syndrome is accompanied by a strong lack of confidence and a profound insecurity. Worst of all, though, you’ll convert it into the (harmful) habit of always wanting to do and give more, often by setting goals that are too demanding or linked to dysfunctional demands. Impostor syndrome therefore translates into a perennial rush to the goal that has a very high cost: constant anxiety resulting in somatization, stress, panic attacks and little care for one’s health. Because if you suffer from it you will find yourself literally jumping through hoops to “prove” that you are not a cheater.
The biggest damage, however, is that not even an excellent result exhausts the negative beliefs about your person, on the contrary: you could even receive the Nobel Prize, but you will continue to think you don’t deserve it. Indeed, paradoxically, the more you achieve, the more you will feel in danger: in essence it is as if you were unable to internalize your goals.
All this also leads to suffering more and more from social anxiety, or that type of anxiety related to social situations. The judgment of others becomes so important as to make it difficult to metabolize any defect and to make any criticism, even constructive ones, insurmountable.
Fortunately, the syndrome is very surmountable. How? First of all, always entrusting yourself to a psychotherapist who will analyze the causes, which can date back to childhood, adolescence or a break in one’s professional career.
Then, implementing good practices that, at first, may seem complex to you because they move away from the schemes you have implemented so far. An example? Sharing your feelings with someone, in such a way that you are actually told that your beliefs are irrational.
Then, focus on others and not on their judgment: try to understand how they face what you face and where they find their self-confidence. Again, you should learn to evaluate your abilities objectively. How? By putting on paper, with a list, your strengths and how you really did get where you are.
Remember that you don’t have to do everything at once and in a hurry, but in small steps: question yourself, try to avoid illogical comparisons and finally remember that, regardless, perfection is an unrealistic ideal. You don’t need to chase it, instead you need to try to give your best and always be at peace with yourself.