Are you an impostor?
You’ve accomplished a decent amount in your life. You’ve succeeded professionally. You’ve contributed something to others. You’ve realized a number of your goals. Maybe, you’ve even received accolades from those around you.
But, you have a sinking feeling that you’re fooling everyone. You believe that if people knew the truth, they wouldn’t value you in the same way they do now. You’re worried you aren’t deserving of what you’ve achieved.
It could be that you struggle with impostor syndrome.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome, also known as the impostor phenomenon, is a consistent experience in which someone doubts their accomplishments and fears being exposed as a “fraud.” Instead of viewing their successes as the result of hard work or ability, those who suffer from impostor syndrome typically believe they’ve simply encountered good luck. They are convinced that if others knew the truth about them, they wouldn’t view them as intelligent or as capable as they do now. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, those with impostor syndrome believe themselves to be incompetent or incapable. The Clance IP Scale is a quick test that can help you learn more about your experience of imposter syndrome.
If this concept sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Approximately 70% of individuals struggle with impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. Often, impostor syndrome goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. Not living up to impossible standards (a la the perfectionist mindset) contributes to the impostor’s belief that they are inadequate. Still, the affected are likely to work long and hard in order to ward off concerns about their capabilities. Impostor syndrome is, unsurprisingly, linked to psychological distress.
What to Do When Struggling with Impostor Syndrome?
1. Recognize that self-doubt is fairly common experience. Just because you aren’t feeling sure of yourself doesn’t make you a fraud. That’s a big leap.
2. Understand that it’s typically those who are smart and high-achieving that are afraid of being found out. Struggling with the imposter phenomenon almost implies capabilities. In fact, it seems that impostor syndrome has all the wrong people in its grips.
3. Challenge perfectionistic thinking and behavior. Embrace the idea of “good enough” vs. perfect. Expose yourself to the discomfort of doing so. Take risks. Start projects without knowing you’ll finish.
4. Remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts. Feeling inadequate doesn’t make this the truth. Notice the thoughts that you have about your worth and success and distance yourself from these thoughts through observation and reflection.
5. Identify people and communities where you can talk openly and honestly about feeling like an imposter. Group therapy is a great place to dive into some of this content. Talking with a supportive group of peers (some of whom will likely share similar struggles) can sometimes normalize our experiences and defuse some of the shame associated with them.