Impostor syndrome is defined as an inability or struggle to accept and identify yourself as competent or successful despite your level of education, skills, and accomplishments. Characterized by constant doubt of one’s capabilities and achievements, it is a mindset that fuels anxiety, self-doubt, and an innate belief of inadequacy that often goes unchecked in individuals of all backgrounds and ages.
If all this sounds familiar to you, keep reading to learn how to overcome impostor syndrome and accept and celebrate your successes.
What Causes Impostor Syndrome?
While the specific reasons that cause impostor syndrome to develop may vary from person to person, it can commonly result from upbringing and childhood backgrounds characterized by traits like perfectionism, the overvaluation of success, or on the other extreme, a lack of support or indifference to it.
It is easy to feel like nothing you do will ever be good enough and that you will never measure up if you grew up either never having your progress properly acknowledged or having your mistakes and failures repeatedly picked at.
Another common cause is the pervasive societal pressure to be successful and to look like it. Coupled with this is a comparative culture that has only grown with access to social media, offering a million perspectives on how you’re just not there yet. One or a combination of these factors is enough to induce anxiety in the 21st-century individual about their own competence.
What Are the Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome?
There may not be a conclusive diagnosis, but the following symptoms are often present in individuals suffering from impostor syndrome:
- General anxiety, which includes triggering feelings of inadequacy in social situations, public speaking, handling tasks, and other areas of functioning. Impostor syndrome often co-occurs with other forms of anxiety.
- Every aspect of your life, from the past to the present to the future, is marked by nagging doubt.
- Despite your successes in the world, you can’t shake the feeling that you’ll eventually be “found out” or exposed as a fraud.
- If something good happens, you might write it off as a stroke of luck or a fluke.
- Feelings of relief or even anxiety may replace what should be pride and joy. This is called “the impostor cycle,” which occurs when you either rush into a task after over preparing for it or put off getting started on it until the last minute. A sense of relief sets in when the job is done well, and when a new task comes, the cycle begins again with worry and uncertainty.
- You depend on those in positions of authority over you, like senior colleagues at work or family, to validate your accomplishments and give them too much sway over your sense of self-worth and success.
What Are the Effects of Impostor Syndrome?
While it’s common to experience a level of impostor syndrome, this condition has varying effects on important aspects of an individual’s life. For example, because people who struggle with it are known to be secretive about their doubts and fears, effects like anxiety, despair, low self-esteem, physical or emotional tiredness, persistent stress, and lowered immunity have all been associated with impostor syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome and Work
In professional settings, such as the workplace and in higher education, it’s common for highly intelligent and accomplished people to suffer from impostor syndrome. Most of the time, people who believe they are impostors suffer from poor self-confidence, performance anxiety, high expectations, and an unhealthy fear of failure. Self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination, unwillingness to ask for help, indecision, and overworking are common outcomes of such feelings.
Consequently, many people who suffer from impostor syndrome are also prone to burnout, emotional tiredness, stress, and discontent at work. A person’s professional development and capacity to realize their full career potential can be hampered by impostor syndrome.
We all need confidence in our capabilities to go after new accomplishments. If you run a small business, for instance, networking and reaching out to new leads or potential clients is vital to success, but this will require a large level of confidence on your part. Impostor syndrome hampers the self-assuredness and confidence that individuals need to attack tasks or interact with people with an awareness of their competence.
Impostor Syndrome and Relationships
Interpersonal and romantic relationships can be hampered by impostor syndrome as well. People who suffer from this syndrome are predisposed to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, so they tend to avoid situations where they can risk rejection if they let their guard down.
Consequently, people with impostor syndrome can be prone to self-sabotage, damaging relationships and making it more challenging to foster genuine connections. As a result, the emotional energy needed to tend to family and relationship needs may be depleted due to the weak work-life boundaries, thereby straining their existing relationships.
How To Overcome the Impostor Syndrome
Become More Self-Aware
Chronic pessimism is one of the markers of impostor syndrome, so being aware of this is the first step towards overcoming it. Making an intentional, deliberate effort to objectively watch the direction of your thoughts and how they unfold will help you understand how to deal with them. This practice may help you find it easier to identify the limiting beliefs that contribute to your feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty.
Focus on Reality
Try to ignore your emotions and concentrate solely on the evidence of your competence. Collect information and consider every angle that could either strengthen or weaken your position.
Separating your emotions from the facts and looking at the important and actual data will help you review your beliefs. Now, there’s no doubt that there may be examples from your past that prove that you sometimes fall short, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Change Your Outlook
Changing how you think about setbacks and failures can do wonders for your mind. By adopting this practice, you can draw on your experiences to generate new strategies for growth, skill mastery, and tenacity. This goes hand in hand with not downplaying your achievements; instead, try to recognize and enjoy them for what they are.
Recognize your accomplishments, no matter how small you may believe them to be. The truth is that consistent success is a direct result of your knowledge, abilities, and preparedness. Choose to enjoy these wins!
Keeping track of your successes has been shown to boost motivation and self-confidence. Changing your perspective on who you are and what you’ve accomplished can help you overcome imposter syndrome over time.
Be Your Own Standard
When you compare yourself to others, it’s easy to dwell on the things you lack, such as a better job or a nicer car, which can contribute to feelings of inadequacy. But the truth is that you are capable of something, and YOU are the reason you have gotten this far. Instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, try looking at them as a source of motivation or inspiration. Not only will this help you feel more confident in yourself, but it will also force you to look within yourself, where you may find hidden strengths.
You’re not alone; most people have to face some level of internal questioning of their capabilities before taking on a new challenge. And while the precise statistics of those who struggle with impostor syndrome are conflicting, self-doubt is a known human condition. Never forget to give yourself a chance to prove that you are worthy and capable of everything you have set out to accomplish. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes and embrace your successes.
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