There’s a saying: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
While it can be useful in many situations, some people feel like they’re living the “faking it” part every day of their lives. Impostor. Fraud. Fake. Charlatan. Pretender. Masquerader.
These are some of the things that a person with Impostor Syndrome might say to themselves as they go through everyday life. But the biggest one is “not good enough.”
Unfortunately, many people struggle with impostor syndrome. It can hinder success, happiness, and mental health. However, you can overcome it and learn to feel and live your own authentic truth.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the ongoing feeling that you are inadequate despite external evidence of success.
In other words, no matter how well you do in life, you always feel like you’re faking it. You don’t give yourself credit for a job well done. Instead, it feels like luck or chance. Moreover, it feels like you’re pulling one over on people.
People with impostor syndrome never feel like the job they do is good enough – whether in a career, a relationship, or just in terms of handling daily life tasks. They feel like they’re one step away from being “found out.”
Historically, psychologists believed these were primarily the thoughts of successful women.
High-achieving women were the ones most likely to experience impostor syndrome. However, we now know that successful women aren’t the only ones who struggle with this condition.
Many capable people struggle with impostor syndrome, regardless of gender, age, education, and other demographic factors.
Signs and Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome
Obviously, the primary symptom of impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re never good enough and that when people think you are, they’re just getting fooled by your satisfactory act.
Additional signs and symptoms of the condition include:
- Berating oneself for any perceived failures
- Chronic, persistent self-doubt
- Difficulty enjoying any achievements
- Hesitancy to speak up in classes or meetings for fear of being wrong
- Inability to internalize or own success
- Putting pressure on oneself to never fail
- Refusal to ask for help because of the feeling that this is a weakness
- Self -sabotage
- Superman / Superwoman Tendency: pushing oneself to work harder than all others
- Tendency to downplay the value of success
Additionally, people living with impostor syndrome often attribute their successes to luck. However, they blame themselves for any perceived failures.
People with impostor syndrome can’t view their own skills, talents, abilities, and performance with any sort of realistic, balanced perspective.
Impostor Syndrome and Social Anxiety
People with impostor syndrome often also suffer from anxiety.
After all, if you constantly believe that you’re not good enough, that all of your success is due to luck, and that others are eventually going to “find this out,” then naturally you’re going to feel anxious most, if not all, of the time.
This can manifest in varied types of anxiety including general anxiety and performance anxiety. However, due to the link with concern about others, it often results in social anxiety.
In an attempt to control the anxiety, the person might excessively study up even before a social gathering with friends or family. For example, they might try to memorize details about every single guest at a party just in case they have to make small talk.
Note that having one condition doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll experience the other. However, social anxiety and impostor syndrome do often overlap in the same person.
Are There Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome?
Notably, many people who have Impostor Syndrome do not recognize it in themselves. They can see it in others. However, they believe that their own feelings of fraudulence are warranted.
Therefore, the first step to overcoming impostor syndrome is to learn to recognize the symptoms in oneself. Additional steps that you can take on your own to begin addressing impostor syndrome in yourself:
- Do a realistic, objective self-assessment of your skills and weaknesses.
- Celebrate your successes. Make yourself a brag book.
- Focus on other people, especially in social settings. The more you can take your mind off of yourself, the less the chatter of the syndrome will invade your mind.
- Interrupt comparisons. Every time you catch yourself comparing you to someone else, interrupt the thought and change the subject in your mind.
- Practice mindfulness. People with impostor syndrome often live in the past and the future. Try being in the present.
- Read honest biographies and memoirs about highly successful people. Underline all of the sections that show their imperfections.
- Reduce media and social media use. It fosters unrealistic comparisons.
- Take small risks. For example, turn a paper in a little bit late or say a joke in a public setting. Then work to be gentle with yourself instead of berating yourself.
You Are No Fraud: Talk Therapy Boosting Confidence
Of all the things that you can do to overcome impostor syndrome, talk therapy is often the most helpful.
Talking with anyone about what’s really going on with you can be helpful, of course. But oftentimes your friends and family will just dismiss your feelings. “Don’t be silly, of course you’re doing a great job,” they’ll say.
A therapist trained to understand the deep pain that impostor syndrome can cause is a better sounding board. They provide a safe place where you can express and process your fears and thoughts. They can validate your feelings. Furthermore, they can assist you in getting to the root of why you feel the way that you do.
There are many potential root causes of impostor syndrome.
It can stem from not feeling good enough as a child to entering a particularly difficult stage of life. It can even be a result of systemic discrimination.
Therapy can help you understand where this is coming from. Moreover, it can help you to learn to change your thoughts, be easier on yourself, address fears that “letting up on yourself” will reduce performance, and otherwise cope with the real difficulties of living with impostor syndrome.
Ready for help? Contact us for a free consultation today.