“I feel like I do not deserve success.”
“I find it difficult to accept compliments.”
“I am not as good as people believe I am.”
“I do not work as much as people say I do.”
“I fear that people will see what a loser I truly am.”
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you? Do you feel that you do not deserve your accomplishments? Do you feel like your whole existence is phoney?
If yes, then you are being troubled by the Imposter Syndrome.
Note: Before you begin reading, please remember that I am not a professional and this is a self-help article. I do not encourage self-diagnosis, you can try this imposter syndrome test!
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon wherein a person doubts his or her abilities and finds it difficult to take credit for their work. This syndrome is also known as ‘fraud syndrome’.
The bad news about imposter syndrome is that we all suffer from it on different levels. The good news is that developing/having a healthy self-esteem can counter this feeling of being an imposter.
Here are a few signs that you are suffering from imposter syndrome:
- You are a Perfectionist: People who suffer from imposter syndrome often show perfectionist tendencies; they set un-realistic goals for themselves and tend to focus on their shortcomings. When faced with failure these people tend to feel extremely disappointed and doubt their actions excessively.
- You Overanalyse Your Successes: “Imposter syndrome” is characterised by the inability to accept or take credit for one’s successes. “I do not deserve this” “I have not worked enough for this” Do these thoughts occur to you when you accomplish something? Then chances are that you are going through imposer syndrome. Overanalysing success can also be a sign that you have low self-esteem.
- You Fear Criticism: People with imposter syndrome have an innate fear that their ‘cover’ will be blown by others. They are extra sensitive to criticism and try their best to avoid it. This tendency is ironical because they do not want to believe they are good yet keep trying to prove to others that they are. They push themselves over their limit to stay in people’s good books yet never acknowledge their own efforts. This cognitive dissonance may make them feel depressed, dissatisfied and resentful.
- You Give Yourself Negative Self-Talks: Those with imposter syndrome downplay their own hard work and successes with “negative self-talk”. These irrational “self-talks” make them disown their own achievements and attribute everything to “luck” or “other factors”.
- Anxiety Motivates You: Motivational feelings should come from a positive place. Unfortunately, anxiety and fear act as motivators for those with imposter syndrome. The fear of being exposed as a fraud and their feeling of always being inadequate, both create anxiety. This anxiety becomes their driving force when they work on their day-to-day tasks.
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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome?
If you could relate with the above signs, here are few ways in which you can overcome Imposter syndrome.
1. Rewind & Reflect: Let’s just say you have received a couple of compliments one day and you are immediately shrugging them off thinking “I didn’t do much actually” or “It was just good luck”. Rewind these thoughts and reflect on why you think you have not worked enough on a specific task.
Ask yourself “Why” 3 times and you will realize how ridiculous your inner narrative is. For example,
“I do not think I worked enough on this presentation.”
“I did not refer to my notes at all while presenting.”
“It was just so easy.”
“I remembered all the points because I worked on framing them before.”
Even if you do not use the three why method, you can simply resort to deep thinking to replace your irrational thoughts with realistic ones.
2. Set More Realistic Goals: Perfectionism is characterized by aiming for the impossible. It is important to break-free from perfectionism to overcome imposter syndrome. Try to break down your goals into chunks and work on them step by step to avoid overworking yourself. Achieving small goals will make you feel worthy of success as well.
3. Try Opposite Thinking: In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT, negative thoughts are replaced with positive thoughts and self-destructive behaviours are substituted with healthy habits. You can use this logic and try to think the exact opposite of your harmful thoughts.
For instance, if you think “I don’t deserve this raise.” simply replace it with “I deserve this raise”.
4. Help Others: When we focus on ourselves too much, we become self-absorbed and end up overthinking. Shift your focus on helping others around you, listen to their problems and try teaching as well. Helping others will help you feel good about yourself and will improve your social skills significantly. By Empathizing with others, you will slowly stop criticizing yourself.
Suffering from imposter syndrome keeps people stuck in a vicious loop. They set unrealistic goals, overwork themselves, feel relieved when they please others and discount their own efforts later. Then again feel like a fraud and start this endless effort cycle. Imposter syndrome is a serious mental health issue and if you need help please approach a professional psychologist.