Posted on 1st February 2022
Imposter Syndrome (IS) is defined as a pattern of self-doubt leading to someone feeling fraudulent and like they are about to be found out and exposed as a 'phony.
People who experience IS will often distrust their abilities, find it difficult to accept their accomplishments and believe they don't belong where they are. They may often attribute their success to external factors such as luck or timing. Whilst IS is not a psychiatric diagnosis, it frequently co-exists with anxiety or depression.
What are the types of Imposter Syndrome?
VeryWell - Theresa Chiechi
The Expert - this person is never satisfied with their level of knowledge and understanding and is always trying to learn more.
The Perfectionist - this person is never satisfied with their work. They fixate on flaws and mistakes instead of strengths.
The Superhero - this person will overwork to make up for their feelings of inadequacy.
The Soloist - this person prefers to work alone. They won't ask for help due to their fear of appearing weak or incompetent.
The Natural Genius - this person will set exceedingly high goals and when they don't meet them, feels crushed.
What are the causes of Imposter Syndrome?
It's likely than several factors lead to someone experiencing IS. These may include:
Low self-efficacy: belief in your ability to succeed
Neuroticism: disposition to experience negative affects like anger, emotional instability, insecurity, anxiety and guilt)
Family background: if someone is brought up where achievement and success is valued above all else, they may experience IS later in life.
New work/school: IS is most common when people go through a transition e.g. starting a new job role.
How do you cope with IS?
Constantly living in fear of being exposed and a pattern of crippling self-doubt is unpleasant to say the least. Here are a 10 things you could try if you find yourself experiencing the signs listed above:
Know the signs - Luckily we've listed these above, but further research may help. Being able to recognise an issue is the first step to solving it.
Talk - Start a conversation with someone you trust. Perhaps a mentor or manager - this can help to see your successes from a different perspective.
Recognise you are not alone - A recent study estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of IS in their life. Sometimes knowing you aren't the only one feeling this way can bring comfort. Maybe you can find someone else who experiences IS. Going through something with someone else always feels better than going it alone (and is good practice for the Soloists out there.)
Let go of perfectionism - Easier said than done but breaking routines of perfectionism can help to reduce IS e.g. try to stop rewriting notes or check your work twice instead of 10+ times!
Develop a healthy response to failure - Next time you make a mistake or don't quite reach that goal, don't berate yourself. Try using reflection to analyse your actions without engaging in self-criticism.
Start saying yes - People who experience IS may turn down new opportunities for fear that they don't deserve it or that they will be exposed as fraudulent. So start saying yes to those opportunities.
Separate facts from feelings - Write down how competent you feel you are, try to make an assessment of your abilities then write down a list of your achievements and successes. Seeing the contrast can help to debunk some of those negative core beliefs you hold about yourself.
Practice self-compassion - Be kind to yourself. People experiencing IS may outwardly and inwardly criticise themselves. A good way to catch yourself when engaging in negative self-talk is to think: would you say to a friend what you are saying to yourself, if they came to you in the same situation? If the answer is no, then you shouldn't be saying this to yourself either.
Write a new inner script - Following on from the last point, what you say to yourself is important. If we are constantly telling ourselves we are a fraud waiting to be found out or that our successes are down to dumb luck- our subconscious (which are very literal) will start to believe this as true. Try and think what you would say to your friend in a similar situation and practice saying this to yourself instead - we're usually a lot kinder to others than we are to ourselves.
Use social media moderately - Overusing social media is known to cause feelings of inferiority. Trying to portray an image on your platforms as someone you aren't will only exacerbate your feelings of being a fraud. Furthermore, social media is a breeding ground for comparing your life with others. Seeing people's best moments and highlights all the time and comparing this to your everyday life will only make your feelings of inadequacy worse.
We hope this article has given you an idea of what Imposter Syndrome is, the signs, types and causes as well as ways in which you can break its pattern.
If you are struggling with your mental health you can call Samaritans on 116 123 for free 24/7.
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