Imposter syndrome: what is it and how to deal with it?

Imposter syndrome is the condition of chronic feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and anxiety despite objective success. This condition often results in people feeling like “a fraud” and doubting their abilities.

Why do people with imposter syndrome feel like frauds even though there is abundant evidence of their success?

Instead of acknowledging their capabilities and efforts, they often credit their accomplishments to external causes, such as luck, good timing, or random factors. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.

Many high achievers reach a point in their career where they feel like they are unable to keep going. Around 25-30% of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. Research underlines that around 70% of adults may experience impostorism at least once in their lifetime.

How does it appear?

Most common characteristics of imposter syndrome can be seen below:

  • Self-doubt
  • Self-sabotage
  • Underestimating efforts
  • Crediting success to external factors
  • Continuous stress and fear of underperformance
  • Burnout

What causes imposter syndrome?

Researchers have shown that imposter syndrome comes from a combination of factors:

  • Family environment (controlling, overprotective, critical parenting styles)
  • Social anxiety (fear of discovery of someone’s incompetence)
  • Personality (low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, perfectionism)
  • New work opportunities & environments (increased pressure to stand out and succeed)

Effects of imposter syndrome

The effects of the syndrome can appear as repetitive feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, frustration, shame, depression, and lack of self-confidence. The latter feelings can also have a negative impact on people’s relationships, work, and overall life satisfaction.

How to deal with imposter syndrome?

Overcoming imposter syndrome involves changing a person’s mindset about their own abilities. Imposters feel like they don’t belong, so acknowledging their expertise and accomplishments is key, as is reminding themselves that they earned their place in their work/relationship/life.

The SBNRR mindfulness technique can help you slow down and mindfully consider the situation, along with your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. The SBNRR technique can be summarized below:

Stop: Allow yourself to take a moment to pause.

Breath: Take a deep breath and let your thoughts go.

Notice: Notice your reaction and feelings, your body, the surrounding environment, your peers, the situation.

Reassess: Evaluate the situation and the trigger that made you feel like an imposter.

Respond: React intentionally.

The above technique can be applied as soon as you feel stressed or you realize that you’re falling into this pattern again. When you manage to calm yourself restore your self-control, it’s time to take extra actions.

  1. Question Yourself – Every time you have a negative thought about your abilities, pause and ask yourself “is this thought truly accurate? Does this thought help or hinder me?”
  2. Assess the evidence – Write down the evidence of what you have in favor or against you. What evidence that you’re competent or inadequate, do you have? The evidence will enable you to combat imposter syndrome by collecting, acknowledging, and reflecting on proof of your competency.
  3. Reframe – What the collected evidence can prove for you? How can you use this information towards your self-growth? What can you learn from this experience? How can this challenge elevate your progress?
  4. Refocus on values – Take your focus away from outward signs of success or achievement and remind yourself of what really matters to you.
  5. Stop comparing – comparing yourself to others could enhance the feeling of not being good enough or not belonging. Comparing is pointless; no one is or looks like anyone else. We’re all unique, in abilities, characteristics, experiences, talents, everything. So, redirect your energy in something more useful and meaningful.
  6. Practice self-compassion – instead of engaging in negative self-talk, give yourself credit and compassion for how far you’ve come.
  7. Seek support – Share your challenge with your loved and trusted ones. You can even seek trusted feedback from people you trust and respect. Knowing that you have a source of meaningful feedback can help you let go of distorted thoughts or wondering what everyone else is thinking of you. If you struggle to enforce the above practices, ask the help of an expert.

Remember imposter syndrome is a cognitive distortion. It’s a matter of time and practice to internalize and capitalize the skills and abilities you already have achieved, based on your past wins and successes.

Comments are closed.