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Imposter Syndrome



Impostor syndrome, it's sneaky and can sometimes get the best of us. For those of you who are not familiar, to loosely define impostor syndrome, it's doubting yourself, your feelings, and abilities, often leading one to feel as though they are a fraud. Most commonly, it affects high-achieving people, perfectionists if you will, who find it more challenging to accept and give value to their accomplishments. Perfectionists tend to set those extremely high expectations for themselves, and even if they meet 99% of their goal, they are going to feel as though they are a failure. For perfectionists, any small error or mistake is going to make them question their ability, competence, and worth.


Those who fall within the category of "expert" feel the need to know every bit of information possible before they are able to start a project and may consistently be looking for ways to hone in and improve their current skill set. "Soloists" then, have the need to complete tasks on their own, and may feel a sense of impostor syndrome if they need to ask for help, or clarification on a topic, thus making them internally feel as though they are a failure, or a fraud. Then, there are the "supermen" or "superwomen", who tend to push themselves to work harder than those around them, often in order to prove that they're not impostors, and often feel an intense need to succeed within all aspects of their life.


Doubting yourself, possibly feeling as though you are a phoney, a fraud, feeling as though you don't belong where you currently are, you don't really know what your doing, and feeling as though the only reason you've made it to where you are, is luck. Impostor syndrome is not a mental health disorder, it's not recognized by the DSM-V, however low self-esteem and a sense of failure are heavily associated with symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders.





There is not one specific thing that may trigger those feelings within us. They can come with a new career, a new promotion, a bigger life event, or, they can sneak up on you when you least expect it. An example from my own life, I used to struggle when clients were struggling, not believing in myself or my abilities. This doesn't happen the way it did when I first entered the field, however it's inevitable that it still happens on occasion. Setting extremely high, unrealistic, or unattainable goals can also lead to feelings of self doubt, low self-esteem, and the feelings of being a failure or fraud.


Impostor syndrome can realistically affect anyone, it doesn't discriminate against social status, career path, job title, however, most commonly high achieving people often experience impostor syndrome.


Have you ever had the feeling that you didn't belong? As though you didn't deserve your accomplishments, job, or other aspects within your life? If so, you are not alone, these are feelings that are often associated with impostor syndrome. It's estimated that around 70% of people experience the phenomenon of impostor syndrome at some point within their lifetime. It can impact or affect anyone, men, women, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, executives. It does not discriminate, it impacts those who anyone who struggles to own their successes.


Some of the common characteristics that go along with impostor syndrome are:


  • Self-doubt

  • Lack of self-esteem

  • Being unable to realistically assess and identify your competence and skills

  • Attributing your success to external factors

  • Berating your performance

  • No celebrating the small victories and wins

  • Fear that you won't live up to expectations

  • Overachieving

  • The need to be "perfect"

  • Self sabotaging your own success

  • Setting unrealistic, unattainable, goals which then lead you to feeling disappointed when you fall short of those goals


In order to start to manage and navigate impostor syndrome and the feelings associated, first one must acknowledge the thoughts and feelings, and be able to put them into perspective. Trying to reframe your thoughts and inner dialect, and asking yourself honestly, if the thought if helping you, or hindering you.


Learning to accept and value constructive criticism, learning to be vulnerable, remembering that you're human, humans make mistakes sometimes. Mistakes help us learn and grow. Remember also, that the more you practice, the more you try, the easier something becomes. We have to be willing to let go the notion of being perfect, of helping everyone, of being able to always fly in and save the day. Talking about these feelings, emotions, and thoughts with supportive people within your life is also beneficial, be it a mentor, a supervisor, friend, or family member. No matter how much you may feel like a phoney, fraud, or as if you don't belong, don't let these feelings stop you from pursuing your goals, keep going, don't stop, you are limitless.





If you are struggling with impostor syndrome, consider the following:


What are my core beliefs that I hold about myself?

Are my goals realistic?

Am I comparing myself to others?

Am I checking the facts and thinking logically?



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