Impostor syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area.You might have imposter syndrome if you find yourself consistently experiencing self-doubt, even in areas where you typically excel.Imposter syndrome may feel like restlessness and nervousness, and it may manifest as negative self-talk. Symptoms of anxiety and depression often accompany imposter syndrome.
Types of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can be broken down into five basic types:
The Perfectionist:This type of imposter syndrome involves believing that, unless you were absolutely perfect, you could have done better. You feel like an imposter because your perfectionistic traits make you believe that you're not as good as others might think you are.
The Expert:The expert feels like an imposter because they don't know everything there is to know about a particular subject or topic, or they haven't mastered every step in a process. Because there is more for them to learn, they don't feel as if they've reached the rank of "expert."
The Natural Genius: In this imposter syndrome type, you may feel like a fraud simply because you don't believe that you are naturally intelligent or competent. If you don't get something right the first time around or it takes you longer to master a skill, you feel like an imposter.
The Soloist: It's also possible to feel like an imposter if you had to ask for help to reach a certain level or status. Since you couldn't get there on your own, you question your competence or abilities.
The Superperson: This type of imposter syndrome involves believing that you must be the hardest worker or reach the highest levels of achievement possible and, if you don't, you are a fraud.
Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome
Some common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:
-An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
-Attributing your success to external factors
-Berating your performance
-Fear that you won't live up to expectations
-Sabotaging your own success
-Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
Coping With Imposter Syndrome
To move past these feelings, you need to become comfortable confronting some of the deeply ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself. This exercise can be hard because you might not even realize that you hold them, but here are some techniques you can use:
-Share your feelings. Talk to other people about how you are feeling. Irrational beliefs tend to fester when they are hidden and not talked about.
-Focus on others. While this might feel counterintuitive, try to help others in the same situation as you. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, ask them a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills, you will build confidence in your own abilities.
-Assess your abilities. If you have long-held beliefs about your incompetence in social and performance situations, make a realistic assessment of your abilities. Write down your accomplishments and what you are good at, then compare these with your self-assessment.
-Take baby steps. Don't focus on doing things perfectly, but rather, do things reasonably well and reward yourself for taking action. For example, in a group conversation, offer an opinion or share a story about yourself.
-Question your thoughts. As you start to assess your abilities and take baby steps, question whether your thoughts are rational. Does it make sense to believe that you are a fraud given everything that you know?
-Stop comparing. Every time you compare yourself to others in a social situation, you will find some fault with yourself that fuels the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Instead, during conversations, focus on listening to what the other person is saying. Be genuinely interested in learning more.
-Use social media moderately. We know that the overuse of social media may be related to feelings of inferiority. If you try to portray an image on social media that doesn't match who you really are or that is impossible to achieve, it will only make your feelings of being a fraud worse.
-Stop fighting your feelings. Don't fight the feelings of not belonging. Instead, try to lean into them and accept them. It's only when you acknowledge these feelings that you can start to unravel the core beliefs that are holding you back.
-Refuse to let it hold you back. No matter how much you feel like you are a fraud or that you don't belong, don't let that stop you from pursuing your goals. Keep going and refuse to be stopped.
Don't be held back by your fear of being found out. Instead, lean into that feeling and get to its roots. Let your guard down and allow others to see the real you. If you've done all these things and still feel like an impostor, which is holding you back, a mental health professional can help you learn how to overcome these feelings.