Great minds like Maya Angelo and Albert Einstein accomplished and excelled at their field which is rare to come across , yet the shared something with the common people , the feeling of fraudulence . Impostor syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context. To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.
When Clance and Imes first described the impostor phenomenon (sometimes called impostor syndrome), they thought it was unique to women. Since then, a variety of research on the topic has revealed that men, too, can have the unenviable experience of feeling like frauds, according to a recent research review .Many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement, says Imes. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem.”In our society there’s a huge pressure to achieve,” Imes says. “There can be a lot of confusion between approval and love and worthiness. Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”
Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome
Some of the common signs 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
While for some people, impostor syndrome can fuel feelings of motivation to achieve, this usually comes at a cost in the form of constant anxiety. You might over-prepare or work much harder than necessary to “make sure” that nobody finds out you are a fraud.This sets up a vicious cycle, in which you think that the only reason you survived that class presentation was that you stayed up all night rehearsing. Or, you think the only reason you got through that party or family gathering was that you memorized details about all the guests so that you would always have ideas for small talk
There are many factors that may play a part in imposter syndrome including new roles, family upbringing, personality traits, and social anxiety.
Types of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can appear in a number of different ways. A few different types of imposter syndrome may include:The perfectionist: Perfectionists are never satisfied and always feel that their work could be better. Rather than focus on their strengths, they tend to fixate on any flaws or mistakes. This often leads to a great deal of self-pressure and high amounts of anxiety.
The superhero: Because these individuals feel inadequate, they feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard as possible.
The expert: These individuals are always trying to learn more and are never satisfied with their level of understanding. Even though they are often highly skilled, they underrate their own expertise.
The natural genius: These individuals set excessively lofty goals for themselves, and then feel crushed when they don’t succeed on their first try.
The soloist: These people tend to be very individualistic and prefer to work alone. Self-worth often stems from their productivity, so they often reject offers of assistance. They tend to see asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence.
Strategies to cope with imposter feelings include talking about what you are experiencing, questioning your negative thoughts, and avoiding comparing yourself to others.For many people with impostor feelings, individual therapy can be extremely helpful. A psychologist or other therapist can give you tools to help you break the cycle of impostor thinking, says Imes.
The impostor phenomenon is still an experience that tends to fly under the radar. Somerville learned the phenomenon existed only after he’d successfully dealt with the feelings on his own. Often the people affected by impostor feelings don’t realize they could be living some other way. “They don’t have any idea it’s possible not to feel so anxious and fearful all the time,” Imes says.
Luckily, it is possible.
You have talent. You are capable. You belong
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