Do you ever feel like you give the impression that you are more competent than you really are? That you are really just an imposter and that at any moment someone will discover you’re a fraud? If so, you’re not alone. Impostor phenomenon or impostor syndrome impacts a lot of people. In fact, as many as 70% of people feel this way at some point in their lives.
What is imposter syndrome?
By definition, impostor syndrome is an inability to recognize the role you play in your own success. For example, you may believe your achievements are a result of timing and luck, not the result of your hard work, skills, and qualifications. Although these feelings do not align with what others think of you, there is an accompanying fear that others will realize you’ve fooled them.
Impostor syndrome can motivate you to work harder. That being said, additional accomplishments don’t make you feel better. They actually perpetuate the cycle — success doesn’t feel like success. Instead, it feels like what you have to do to keep others from finding out you’ve tricked them. For this reason, impostor syndrome can often lead to anxiety and/or depression.
Types of imposter syndrome
Dr. Valerie Young, a leading researcher on impostor syndrome, found patterns in those who experience it and categorized them into five types:
- The Perfectionist sets high expectations of themselves. If goals are not achieved they feel like a failure.
- The Expert feels they need to know everything to start a project. This person will often forego asking questions in class or meetings due to fear of looking stupid for not knowing the answer.
- The Soloist believes they should be able to handle everything alone. That means they feel asking for or accepting help may reveal them as a fraud.
- The Natural Genius has always mastered things with ease. They feel shame if something takes longer to learn or isn’t done right on the first try.
- The Superwoman/man is also often thought of as a workaholic. They work extra hard and long hours because they are convinced they are frauds and their coworkers are not.
Ways to cope
There are several strategies that can help you reduce imposter feelings. Let’s go over a few:
- Start by acknowledging your feelings by talking about them with other people. Opening up to peers can encourage them to share their feelings too. Everything is easier when you feel less alone. Talking with a supervisor or mentor can also assist with reassurance that these feelings are normal and don’t last forever.
- Next, assess your abilities. Write down what you’re good at and areas that could use some improvement. This can help you recognize that, while there is some room for improvement, there are things you do well.
- Try not to compare yourself to others. Many wise people have said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” By comparing yourself to others, you end up highlighting your perceived flaws. This can deepen the feelings of not being good enough.
- Talk to someone who can help. Individual therapy can be extremely helpful in breaking the cycle of thinking like an impostor.
Feeling like an imposter can be really isolating. It’s easy to get stuck inside your thoughts. Please consider reaching out for support if you need help discovering how amazing you really are.