By Maria Lebron, December 2020
Impostor Syndrome is the belief that your success is not due to your talent or qualifications, but rather due to luck. As a result, you doubt your skills, talents, or accomplishments and you fear being exposed as a fraud.
Most people who experience Impostor Syndrome suffer in silence because they’re afraid that if they tell someone, they’ll be unmasked as a fraud. Impostor Syndrome is common and it’s estimated that 70% of people have experienced these feelings at some point in their lives.
The people who are more prone to experience Impostor Syndrome are:
- People who set very high expectations and demand perfection of themselves will doubt their competence even after an inconsequential mistake.
- People who feel that they need to know everything and be an expert in something they are tasked to do.
- People who interpret struggling to accomplish something as meaning that if they were really good at it, they wouldn’t have had to put in so much effort.
- People who feel asking for help or needing to get more information on something they’re working on means they’re not qualified.
- People who procrastinate for fear that they won’t be able to do something well or with perfection.
As a defense against feeling Impostor Syndrome, people may push themselves to work harder and accomplish more than others in order to prove they’re not impostors. There may be a need to over-prepare and spend more time on a task than necessary. This kind of pressure will cause stress and resentment and it also reinforces the belief that you can only be successful if there is excessive preparation and effort put in.
Another defense against Impostor Syndrome is to downplay your own expertise or accomplishments, even in areas where you are actually have more skills or expertise than others. Downplaying your accomplishments or shrugging off praise may make you feel less stressed or anxious rather than waiting to be revealed as a fraud or impostor. Impostor Syndrome can stall or stop your career path when you don’t seek out better opportunities or go outside your comfort zone because of a fear of being exposed as a fraud.
People with a history of anxiety may be prone to Impostor Syndrome. There may also be factors which arose in childhood for those who grew up in families placing a huge emphasis on achievements. This can produce a feeling that one can only be accepted or loved if they are perfect or successfully accomplish what is expected of them.
Environmental factors or systemic discrimination can also cause Impostor Syndrome when one feels they need to overcome stereotypes about competence or when one isn’t made to feel they belong to a particular group. Differing from the majority of your peers can create a feeling of being the ‘other’ and add to feelings of being a fraud.
How to Deal With Impostor Syndrome
- Begin to question whether your feeling of being a fraud or impostor is valid. What are the facts in the present moment which are making you feel this way;
- Identify allies, advocates, and mentors who believe in you, who are supportive of you, and who you can trust to talk about your doubts;
- Recognize and acknowledge the expertise you do have;
- Don’t expect perfection in everything you do. We all have areas we are very good at and others that need improvement;
- Ask for help when you need it;
- Value constructive criticism as a way to learn and grow;
- Gradually cut down on the amount of time you take to accomplish a task or to prepare for an assignment;
- Seek professional help if you feel that you are having problems changing your thinking or breaking the cycle.
© Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Maria Lebron, LCSW, NCPsyA. Maria Lebron is a therapist located in New York. Visit Maria’s website: https://marialebrontherapy.com