Imposter Syndrome: The Self-doubt you need to Silence

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Have you ever felt like you don’t belong here? Do you start doubting yourself too often? Well, we all experience spells wherein we feel like we’re not good enough for this world. There is also an inner critic that tells us that we lucked into what we have, and we don’t really deserve our job or accomplishments. Once in a while self-doubt might feel normal. It only becomes a problem when we start believing it and let it take control of our lives. If you constantly live in the fear of being exposed or being called out as a fraud, you’re probably suffering from the imposter phenomenon or imposter syndrome.


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Imposter Syndrome Definition

The term Imposter Syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. Back then, in their paper, they theorized that women were the only gender affected by imposter syndrome. However, over the years, research has proven that both men and women experience imposter feelings.

The syndrome revolves around the feeling that you’ve only succeeded due to sheer luck and not because of your talent or qualifications. A raise or promotion might bring joy initially. However, a few hours later, negative thoughts might start plaguing you which includes feelings of chronic self-doubt, inadequacy, and a sense of intellectual fraudulence.

It may be hard to believe but even famous people suffer from imposter syndrome. Some names include Tom Hanks, Sheryl Sandberg, Lady Gaga, and Howard Schultz.

Though being an imposter is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed of, it can be problematic in your daily life. It can even further have an impact on your mental health. The sooner you silence this self-doubt, the more you’ll feel in control of yourself.

There are several ways to curb these feelings in a healthy yet proactive way.

Ways to Silence your Inner Critic & Not Feel like an Impostor

Even before you devise strategies to fight with your inner critic, knowing why these feelings arise in the first place is important. A lot of experts believe that imposter syndrome has a lot to do with personality traits of an individual. It may be linked to one’s past, anxiety, or neuroticism. Certain childhood memories or incidents can also trigger these feelings. For example, if you had a traumatic childhood, your siblings outshone you in certain areas or your grades were never good enough, you can tend to develop imposter syndrome as an adult. Thus, recognising the warning signs are important. Knowing what’s causing it can help you control it and cope with it in a better way.

Warning Signs to look out for:

  • You don’t like it if anybody praises you
  • In case of an award or achievement, you simply feel like you got lucky whereas in reality you actually prepared well and worked hard
  • You feel like eventually, you will let everybody down including yourself
  • Constantly feeling fearful that you will be found out
  • You keep apologizing to yourself for something you haven’t done
  • Even before doing anything, you start thinking of the repercussions or consequences
  • You tend to become an overthinker
  • You keep telling yourself you could have done better

If your own success is making you feel uncomfortable, do some reflective thinking. Focus on where those thoughts are coming from and what you can do to put them away.

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5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Now that you know that imposter syndrome is a hot mess of harmfulness, you should also know that they take various forms. Based on an individual’s personality, background and circumstances, there are various types that exist which are as follows:

  • The Perfectionist

It’s a known fact that perfectionists set very high goals for themselves. They want to see precision and perfection in every aspect of their lives. However, when they fail to reach that goal, they tend to experience major self-doubt. Instead of acknowledging the hard work they’ve put into a particular task, they start criticizing themselves.

  • The Natural Genius

This type of individual spends very little effort in picking up new skills in their life. They feel like new processes come to them very naturally. However, when they have a hard time decoding a certain process or material or when they fail to succeed on their first try, they begin to feel ashamed and embarrassed and start doubting their capabilities.

  • The Superhero

People who experience this phenomenon push themselves to work very hard. They put in a lot of energy in every role they hold: friend, student, parent or employee. They often do this to cover up for their insecurities. For example, they keep convincing themselves that they can do more than their capacity. They even work harder or stay late at the office only to prove their worth.

  • The Expert

This type of individual believes they should know everything about every topic. They spend most of their time reading and learning as much as they can about something. Since they believe they should have all the answers at all times, they tend to doubt themselves when they don’t. They might even call themselves a fraud or failure.

  • The Individualist

Being independent is great. But, when an individual refuses assistance in order to prove their worth, it can be problematic. People who experience this type of phenomenon usually consider themselves unworthy when they cannot achieve success independently. They feel ashamed asking for anyone’s help and don’t even accept support when it is offered. In case they do, they feel like other people would judge them.

The above-mentioned personality types and imposter syndrome go hand-in-hand.

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Dealing with Imposter Syndrome: Coping Mechanisms

Before the anxiety, depression, and guilt blow out of proportion, it’s important to banish self-doubt. Here are a few coping mechanisms you can follow when you start doubting yourself:

  • Acknowledge your Feelings

The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge how you feel and why you’re feeling a certain way. Avoiding or denying your feelings will only make you feel worse. Therefore, whenever you experience feelings of self-doubt, put it into words or speak to someone. Start by maintaining a journal. Pen down whatever you’re experiencing. Also, be specific about the situation. When you write down your thoughts, you will feel more in control of the situation. You could also speak to yourself in the mirror or vent out to a trusted friend or family member. Such feelings will make you feel less lonely.

  • Ditch the Comparison

Focus on your own abilities, knowledge, and experience instead of comparing yourself to others. Remember everybody is made differently. Focus on the positives of your personality. When you start comparing yourself to others, you begin to feel inadequate. Don’t aspire to be like someone else or push yourself to achieve another person’s milestones. Do as much as you can in your own capacity.

  • Develop a New Script

If the phrase “I’m not good enough” is playing on your mind like a stuck record, you need to rewrite your script. This is what is triggering the imposter feelings the most. Instead, tell yourself “I am more than good enough”. The result of positive thoughts is positive things. You could even print out your feel-good phrase and stick it in key places including the dashboard of your car, bulletin board or even as a wallpaper on your phone. Each time you feel like a certain situation is overwhelming, scream out your feel-good statement.

  • Let Go off Extreme Perfectionism

Perfectionism may be causing more harm than good. It can even be a roadblock for productivity. As mentioned earlier, high achievers and individuals who set high standards for themselves often suffer from imposter syndrome. Remember, everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to be ordinary at times and accept honest failures. Instead of being ashamed of your mistakes, tell yourself that you can perform better next time. Also, being kind to yourself will take off a lot of pressure.

  • Visualize Success

When you visualize success, you’ve won half the batter. As they say, thoughts become things. Before performing a task, imagine yourself conquering it, picture yourself going on stage or meeting somebody. When you sketch a positive image in your mind, the results will also be positive. This also helps with performance-related stress.

  • Track & Measure your Successes

If you’ve just failed at one out of five tasks, don’t overstress on that one task. Instead, channelize your energies towards the other four tasks you performed exceptionally well. You have a big role to play in your own success. Keep a track of your wins. You could also use metrics to track success. When you see yourself improving over time, you’re more likely to feel good about yourself, and you might even appreciate your hard work and preparation.

While there is no magic formula to beat imposter syndrome, these are a few simple yet effective techniques you could incorporate into your everyday life. In most cases, imposter syndrome is temporary. Each time you feel unworthy or begin to doubt yourself, look for ways to silence such feelings. If it is not nipped in the bud, it can even turn into a mental health issue.

Listen to your inner voice but don’t let it control you.

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