Impostor Symdrome

I’m a fake.

I’m a phony.

I don’t belong here.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m a fraud.

I don’t have what it takes.

I’m not like the rest of the people here.

I’m inadequate.

I don’t deserve this success.

I don’t know what gave me the idea that I’m smart enough, pretty enough, experienced enough.

People are going to find out.

If this is what goes through your mind, you may have “impostor syndrome.”

Impostor Syndrome is an ironic thing. The term was coined by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Rose Clance to describe women who were successful, but didn’t feel successful. They thought their success was a fluke due to good luck, but didn’t have anything to do with their abilities or efforts. (Now we know men also experience this phenomenon.)

This self-doubt is driven by the fear that the truth will come out and everyone will find out you’re a hack.

The frustrating thing is that everyone with Impostor Syndrome thinks s/he’s the only one who is feeling insecure. The truth is we all feel insecure. Some of us are just more aware of it than others.

Perfectionists Often Feel Like Impostors

Not surprisingly, perfectionists often fall prey to Impostor Syndrome. Perfectionists feel intense pressure to succeed and achieve. The problem with both perfectionism and Impostor Syndrome is that your self-worth gets wrapped up in your accomplishments rather than who you are.

The anxiety that “impostors” feel about being discovered as unworthy, contributes to perfectionism. Their self-doubts drive them to work harder, do better, be perfect, have unrealistic expectations of themselves, achieve at all costs, fixate on the details, and be highly critical of all their mistakes.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome and Low Self-Confidence

I highly recommend Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. She shares her research on building self-confidence and her personal experience of overcoming Impostor Syndrome.

 

 

  1. Strike a power pose. According to Cuddy’s research, holding a big, powerful stance (a la Wonder Woman) for two minutes increases confidence, authenticity, and leadership, while reducing stress. Sounds easy enough (and there’s science to back it up)!
  2. Give up perfectionism. You don’t have to be perfect to be of value. Mistakes are growth opportunities and necessary parts of success.
  3. Give yourself a reality check. Challenge negative thoughts by looking for evidence to the contrary.
  4. Do it until you believe it. Or “fake it until you become it,” as Cuddy says in her Ted Talk. The point is, do it even if you don’t feel it. Actions can create feelings.
  5. Remember everyone experiences self-doubt. There’s nothing different or wrong with you for feeling this way.
  6. Own your successes. Notice your hard work, abilities, and traits that contribute to your success. Don’t discount them or attribute them to luck or someone else.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison typically focuses on what’s lacking. Instead focus on doing your personal best.
  8. Practice gratitude and mindfulness. These practices remind you of who you are and what you have. This shifts the focus from what’s missing to what is.
  9. Accept praise. It’s tempting to deny or minimize positive feedback. Try accepting it graciously. Unless it’s your mother, people aren’t just saying these things to be nice.
  10. Only you get to determine your worth. Decide whose opinion you’re going to listen to and whose you’re discarding.
  11. Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself encouragement, praise, and “emotional good stuff.”
  12. Have a supportive tribe to cheer you on. Encouragement and praise from others can’t be our sole basis of self-worth, but having a trusted mentor or best friend who can set your thinking back on track is helpful.

Learn more:

Feel Like A Fraud? by Kirsten Weir

What Is Perfectionism? by Sharon Martin, LCSW

 

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