Impostor syndrome: What is it and how to overcome it

Mind

Do you ever feel like a fraud? If so, you’re in good company. You could be one of many people experiencing impostor syndrome. Here’s how to help beat this confidence-sapping phenomenon…

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and fear they are going to be exposed as a fraud. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, who found it was particularly high among successful women. However, more recent research has shown it plagues men just as much, if not more.

Who is affected?

It’s estimated 70% of people will experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives – most likely in the workplace. “People who score low on self-esteem score higher on impostor syndrome, while people who perpetually self-monitor and present themselves per the social situation also experience impostor syndrome,” explains psychologist Hope Bastine.

It is also thought perfectionists are particularly prone because they set themselves unreasonably high standards, and if they don’t meet them they experience crippling self-doubt. Additionally, high achievers are more susceptible because they are unable to accept their accomplishments, often attributing their success to ‘dumb luck’ rather than talent and hard work. Several high-profile figures at the top of their game, including Serena Williams, Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, have admitted they have struggled with impostor syndrome.

Meanwhile, Millennials may feel impostor syndrome more because of constant social media comparison, which can demolish self-confidence. Hope also says it’s highly correlated with social anxiety, people who are introverts, and family environment. “Critical parents create in their children excessive concern with impressing others and the need to protect themselves from criticism. Children will combat their sense of inadequacy by overachieving as a means of ‘earning’ their parent’s unconditional love,” she explains. “However, when families genuinely support each other, engage in open communication about thoughts, feelings and emotions, and have low levels of conflict, impostor syndrome is far less prevalent.”

How to overcome impostor syndrome

1. Stop comparing yourself

If you want those feelings of inadequacy to go away, you’re going to have to stop using others as a way of measuring how well you’re doing in life. Taking a break from social media could be a good place to start.

2. Own your success

It’s great you’re keeping your ego in check but to shake off impostor syndrome you need to give yourself a pat on the back now and then. Write down all of your achievements so you can see just how far you’ve come – and the next time someone gives you a compliment graciously take the praise and say ‘thank you’.

3. Don’t strive for perfection

Humans aren’t perfect and we all make mistakes. Forgive yourself when you screw up and know it’s okay to ask for help.

By Sam

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