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What Is Imposter Syndrome, and How Do You Beat It?

02 March 2023

Have you ever felt that you weren't good enough, despite being phenomenal at what you do? Chances are you were experiencing imposter syndrome.

You may have come across the term imposter syndrome more frequently in the last two years and thought it was just another Gen Z buzzword. Well, it's not–and it's quite burdensome for people that experience it.

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of fraudulence–or feeling that you've not earned your accomplishments, that your skills or ideas are not worthy of the praise or accolades you're receiving, and no threshold of achievements seems enough to outgrow this persistent feeling of unworthiness.

Now, this should not be confused with the feelings of inadequacy that accompany one's incompetence in a task or field. It's only imposter syndrome if you're highly skilled or talented, and others actually recognize your unique ability or your work has consistently good results.

Imposter syndrome goes by other terms, and you might hear some call it imposter phenomenon, imposter experience, perceived fraudulence, or pervasive fraudulence. Whatever you choose to call it, the common denominator remains an overarching distrust in your abilities.

Let's explore Imposter Syndrome a little further and see how it comes about, whether it ever goes away, and if there are measures to help you overcome it.

Imposter Syndrome

According to Medical Centric, imposter syndrome is;

"A self-perpetuated feeling of incompetence and self-doubt that continues to persist despite a person's achievements professionally or academically."



What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Now that we know that imposter syndrome is a conflict between how others perceive you and how you view yourself, how does it come about? Here are ways that this lack of trust in your abilities can come about.

Pressure to Excel

If you come from a background (home or society) that has unnaturally high expectations of you, you might develop an irrational fear that you're never good enough. Such setups oscillate between extreme praise and extreme criticism, which conditions the mind to always feel that there's a chance you're still not living up to people's expectations. If your parents or teachers always expected you to top your class in every subject, coming second probably felt like less of an achievement.

Psychological Traits

Some people are natural-born perfectionists. People with OCD and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder tend to lie in this category. If the outcome fails to live up to your idea of perfection, despite being just as great, you tend to write it off as a failure. For example, an actress–let's take Jeniffer Lopez who has actually expressed her battle with imposter syndrome–does extremely well in a role, but still feels she could have done better. Despite everyone praising her for her exemplary execution, she might not see it that way, if she's left feeling that it could have been better.

Mental Health Issues

Extreme feelings that affect a person's mental health, like low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, depression, etc., can get in the way of a person being able to see themselves for who they actually are. You can completely ace an exam, but if you suffer from anxiety, you might consider it a fluke, or luck, rather than seeing it as your preparedness or ability. Stress also makes one feel like the bubble will burst, and the achievement will be recalled–you live in constant fear that your success is not permanent.

Existing Social Constructs

People in underrepresented or more disadvantaged groups have a higher predisposition to experiencing imposter syndrome. Gender-wise, women are more likely to experience feelings of fraudulence despite their achievements. When it comes to race, the Black, Asian, and LatinX community feel less deserving of their accolades. Younger people in a professional setup belittle their achievements relative to more experienced colleagues. And people in certain occupations tend to view their roles as negligible in the team's victory–for instance, a chef in the army base may feel less integral in a successful mission, despite him being responsible for keeping the soldiers fed and healthy.



Types of Imposter Syndrome

Dr. Valerie Young is an authority in the field of imposter syndrome, and even goes ahead and classifies the syndrome into 5 types. Here's a quick overview of how she defines the different types of imposter syndrome.

The Perfectionist

This is an individual that shoots for the very best. Success for them is devoid of any mistake, or any imperfection. If any mistakes were made on the way to an otherwise successful project, these individuals may experience debilitating feelings of fraudulence.

The Natural Genius

This is the person that relies on their uncanny ability to master everything. They expect that nothing is beyond their comprehension. Facing a stumbling block for these individuals could cause a total loss of confidence in their ability despite them having a lifetime of achievements that says otherwise.

The Soloist/ Rugged Individualist

This is somebody who succeeds independently. They need to achieve their success alone–and where they have to rely on others, even for the slightest task, which leads to feelings of inadequacy.

The Expert

The expert has taken their time to study extensively on a subject matter, and see themselves as a leading authority. Even the slightest failure with negligible details, like misquoting the year something happened, leads to feelings of unworthiness of the titles they hold.

The Superhero

There's no challenge they can't overcome–they will push themselves beyond the limits, and they will not stop until they've come to a solution. Naturally, some things are unsolvable. For such people, this is unacceptable and can lead them to invalidate all their previous achievements.



How Do I Identify Imposter Syndrome?

It's quite simple. These are persistent feelings of inadequacy accompanied by;

Anxiety

You feel that your bubble is about to burst, and your success is always on the verge of disappearing.

Guilt

You have convinced yourself that you've tricked people into thinking you're someone that you're not. That you actually bring no value to the table.

Depression

You feel so unworthy and undeserving of the praise you are getting and want it to stop since you're not actually delivering something that's praiseworthy.

Burn Out

To combat all this negativity, you work excessively hard to prove yourself worthy, long after you've already succeeded.



How to Fight Imposter Syndrome

Michelle Obama is famous for saying, "You wouldn't be here if you didn't deserve it." She says this to encourage people in minority groups that have been told they didn't belong somewhere but find themselves excelling in that particular place. As the first First Lady of color, she has first-hand experience with moments of self-doubt surrounding her place at the table. She further encourages that, "The truth and the right answers lie in our diversity," so start by feeling like you are where you should be.

Here are a few other tips to help you on your journey to overcoming these feelings:

Acknowledge Your Feelings

There's no better way to face a fear than to acknowledge its existence. Once it's real, you are better placed to have a plan of action. For instance, journal your feelings, and examine the evidence surrounding the perceived failure. Then list your accomplishments against the said failures. You'll most likely find that the failures are either circumstantial and have nothing to do with your ability or that the few failures are quite negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Challenge Your Doubt

If you think yourself inadequate, then there must be a person you hold in relatively higher esteem. If such a person exists, have them examine your situation. Their validation could be what you need to overcome feelings of incompetence. If you're finding yourself crippled by a small failure, present it to your peers and see if it poses a similar challenge. And if they are somehow able to solve the challenge, find out whether they have an added advantage probably from their academic background or life experiences, to ensure that you are not beating yourself up for nothing.

Discuss it in a Safe Space

There's something known as pluralistic ignorance in the world of psychology that refers to a phenomenon where most people privately doubt themselves, but think they are alone, and that no one else experiences it. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and explain your dilemma to a person with a similar achievement threshold to yours. Chances are, that person will have gone through what you're going through. On the off chance that they haven't, this person's positive feedback on your situation could set you on a journey to becoming more confident.

Interestingly, studies have shown that 9% to 82% of people frequently fear that they don't have the aptitude to be here. So, you can't really count on other people to build your confidence–but discussing it with trusted peers could make the problem more global to you. Also, discovering that people you hold in high regard experience the same challenge sounds like the perfect recipe for a re-evaluation of your own thought process. You just have to be willing enough to open yourself up for that conversation.

Build Your Confidence

Unfortunately, the bulk of the work lies with you. If you cannot master the courage to be confident in your abilities, then these feelings won't just vanish. You'll stay afraid of being discovered as a fraud, and never get to actually enjoy your success.

Conclusion

Imposter syndrome is a dangerous state of mind that keeps people from sharing their great ideas, keeps them from applying to positions they qualify for, deprives the workforce of qualified individuals, gives an extra edge to confident, but unqualified people, as well as threatens the well-being of the person suffering from it.

Acknowledge that you are suffering from these feelings of inadequacy, and work on fighting them to give yourself the chance to make the world a better place. Be like us–we have overcome our imposter syndrome, and know that we are the best dealers in ergonomic office desks and ergonomic office chairs. Try us out, and once you discover that we are as good as we say we are, then you can employ some of our tips and work on becoming as confident as we are.