When you constantly doubt you are successful, you may feel as if you are a fraud and unworthy of your success. This is called Imposter Syndrome. Self doubt is something that everyone naturally experiences at some point in their lives. When this doubt affects how you view yourself in multiple areas of your life, it can be difficult to feel worthy or proud of your accomplishments.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is more than doubting ourselves – it’s a fear of being exposed as something you’re not; a fear of being an imposter.
These feelings occur when an individual has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’
Individuals with imposter syndrome may doubt their ability to perform well at work, to fulfill their duties at home or within their relationships. These individuals may feel that any or all of their accomplishments are a result of luck. They often feel undeserving.
In reality, these individuals are highly capable and successful, but cannot see themselves in this light.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
There isn’t just one cause that may trigger these feelings and thoughts. They may come about as a result of a combination of factors, such as:
- your childhood environment and parenting styles
- your personality (i.e. low self-esteem, perfectionist tendencies, etc.)
- pre-existing anxiety and depression
While this syndrome is common among high-achieving individuals, women, and people of color, it can affect anyone.
To understand how imposter syndrome might affect you and how you can overcome it, you need to understand the five types of personalities that are commonly affected.
Imposter syndrome can also worsen mental health issues. This is why it’s important to address it. You don’t have to live with constant thoughts or feelings of fear and shame.
Are you one of these Five Types?
There are five types of imposter syndrome – the perfectionist, the natural genius, the soloist, the expert, and the superhero. Imposter syndrome affects each of these personalities differently. This means each person may express their fears in unique ways.
- The perfectionist focuses on how they complete tasks, and if they don’t do them perfectly, they feel like a failure. These individuals may not take on new or unfamiliar tasks to avoid imperfection.
- The natural genius believes they should be able to handle anything if they are competent. This personality type might pressure themselves to complete certain tasks in a specific amount of time or with ease.
- The soloist believes that they should be able to handle anything on their own. If they need assistance, they must be unworthy. This personality type may often reject help.
- The expert is the person who feels they need to know everything about a topic before becoming successful. They may feel like a fraud if they’re unable to answer a question.
- Lastly, the superhero takes their different roles very seriously and believes they must excel at all of them. For example, this person might be a parent, a friend, and an employee. They must stretch themselves thin to succeed in every role. Even when this person puts in their maximum effort, they may still feel incompetent.
Strategies That Can Help With Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can bring up feelings of failure, guilt, embarrassment, fear, or doubt. You may try to keep others from discovering your shortcomings or you might work hard to make up for what you consider yourself to lack.
This cycle of fear and fraud can be psychologically damaging and can certainly affect your daily life.
However, there are strategies and coping skills you can develop to release yourself from the guilt, doubt, and fear that you might be feeling.
Are you ready to shut down your Imposter Syndrome?? Here’s a start:
1. Know that it’s normal
Imposter syndrome is a relatively common phenomenon and it affects both men and women, although women are more likely to experience it than men. If you’re feeling as though you might be experiencing imposter syndrome, there’s a good chance that you are – but don’t worry, because it happens to just about everyone at some point in their lives.
2. Look at the facts
Imposter syndrome is rooted in feelings of inadequacy, so the best way to deal with these feelings is to look at the facts and remind yourself of your accomplishments. Remind yourself of your successes and achievements – remember how far you have come since you started out and how much work you have put into your career or personal life.
3. Embrace Imperfection
We all think we are perfect, but the truth is that we are all far from it! We are all human – and as such, we all make mistakes from time to time. It’s important to accept that you are not perfect, and if you do make a mistake or do something which isn’t up to scratch, then don’t be too hard on yourself about it. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes – just try your best (and never stop learning!) and things will work out in the end.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others and wishing we were them instead of ourselves – but this is a sure-fire way of making yourself feel bad about yourself. Remember that everyone has their own path – so whatever your path may be, just embrace it!
5. Forgive yourself
Forgive yourself for your mistakes, forgive yourself for not being perfect. You are only human after all! The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and keep trying. Give yourself a chance to grow into the person that you want to be.
6. Be patient with yourself
Patience is a virtue that is often overlooked, but vital when it comes to self-esteem. Patience with yourself means that you will be able to persevere when things get tough and you’ll be able to keep trying even when you feel like giving up. It means being kinder to yourself, being more understanding of your flaws and being more accepting of your mistakes. It’s about forgiving yourself for not being perfect and learning from your mistakes instead of beating yourself up about them. If you can be patient with yourself, you will find that it makes life a lot easier!
There’s always more we can do to better ourselves and to feel more confident. Speaking with a therapist about coping strategies can help you work through triggers and feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.