Over the past couple of years, I have heard more and more about people struggling with imposter syndrome. (You are not alone!). I know I have definitely felt this in my life as well.
Imposter syndrome is an “experience of feeling incompetent and of having deceived others about one’s abilities”. This was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. Dr. Clance even created an assessment that people can take to see if they identify with the characteristics of imposter syndrome.
Know that you are not alone. There are an approximate 70% of people who have experienced these feelings. This happens to individuals across all industries, job functions, ages. Anyone can view themselves as an imposter in a given situation if they fail to internalize their success. Imposter syndrome does not discriminate!
Let’s dive in on what imposter syndrome is and what we can do to start to release these feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.
What is imposter syndrome?
According to Dr. Clance, imposter syndrome is “an experience of feeling incompetent and of having deceived others about one’s abilities.” She further asserts that imposter feelings are shown to be associated with “characteristics such as introversion, trait anxiety, a need to look smart to others, a propensity to shame, and a conflictual and non-supportive family background”. To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the feeling that you don’t deserve your success. That, for a variety of reasons, you have convinced yourself that it was not actually your talent, hard work, and intelligence that got you your achievements.
Though it may not be inherently obvious at first, when you experience imposter syndrome it is also believed that this is linked to symptoms of burnout due to the anxiety and need for perfection; which leads to overwork and unnecessary stress. There was a study done in medical students, showing exactly this. Almost a quarter of male medical students and almost half of female medical students experienced Imposter Syndrome. In those that did, they were found to have increased burnout.
Who does it affect?
Furthermore, if you identify as being a woman or a woman of color, you are more likely to experience feelings of imposter syndrome due to societal and family beliefs.
According to psychotherapist, Brian Norton:
When you experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are less-than or underserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind, imposter syndrome will occur.
If so many of us continue to experience these feelings, how can we start to process them so that we can start to celebrate our achievements without a cloud of self-doubt hanging over us?
How to overcome imposter syndrome?
Here are 3 easy tools to begin to shed feelings of imposter syndrome.
Separate feelings from fact – Identify your strengths
We all have a list of successes and accomplishments. You may discount one success, thinking it’s because of XYZ reason, but what happens when your successes and accomplishments all start to add up to a long list? It’s much harder to continue to discount your skills and talents. Create your “I DID THIS” list based on what’s true – and what isn’t.
Know that this is a common humanity
As I mentioned earlier, you are not alone. When you begin talking to those that you view as successful, perhaps a personal mentor, you will find that they also feel the same at certain points. Once you recognize that this is not you in isolation, and even the most successful people in the world also feel this, you can begin to shift your perspective around some of these cyclical thought patterns. Now that you know you’re not in isolation, you can begin to accept that these are feelings – in fact all feelings – are valid and it can feel quite freeing to realize this.
Show yourself care
It’s important to not neglect yourself during times of distress, but to give yourself care in moments where you question your worth. What can you do in those situations to give yourself more care? Just as we would show a friend compassion in moments where they are suffering with internal thoughts, what can we do in the same situation when it happens to ourselves? Self compassion will lead the way to more peaceful internal thoughts.
I hope that these tips helped you identify ways you can begin to overcome imposter syndrome. Let me know below if you’ve experienced imposter syndrome and what you have done to help you!