Impostor Syndrome: What It Is And How You Can Combat It
Do you sometimes feel like a fraud? Even though you’ve achieved a lot, do you feel you’re not exactly good at what you do and you’ll soon be exposed? Do you feel like you got where you’re by sheer luck? Well, you’re not alone.
A recent report shows that at least 70% of successful people are plagued with Impostor syndrome. The Imposter syndrome was first studied by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance in 1978.
Now, this is not a mental health problem and does not lead to depression, anxiety, or a mental breakdown. It’s rather a belief, a conviction people who’ve had success in their life contend with.
Feeling like a fraud is a phenomenon that plagues many successful people.
Albert Einstein and Maya Angelou, two incredibly successful people have written about feeling like a fraud and undeserving of their achievements.
“…the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler”
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
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In a Ted-Ed video, narrator Elizabeth Cox further explains this experience saying even the term “syndrome” downplays how universal the feeling truly is, one that has been established across gender, race, age, and profession.
“People who are highly skilled or accomplished tend to think others are just as skilled,” Cox says. “This can spiral into feeling that they don’t deserve accolades and opportunities over other people.”
Cox believes what makes imposter syndrome so common is the silence that shrouds the experience. The “pluralistic ignorance”; while we each second-guess ourselves privately, we believe we are alone in our doubts because no one else voices their own thoughts.
“Since it’s tough to really know how hard our peers work, how difficult they find certain tasks, or how much they doubt themselves, there’s no easy way to dismiss the feeling that we’re less capable than the people around us,” Cox says
Three steps on how to beat the syndrome
Talk about it
Sharing the experience with others is a good way to demystify it. To smother your inner critic is to voice it out yourself. However, many people are hesitant to share these beliefs as they feel people may think less of them.
But, finding out a friend or even a mentor has experience or is experiencing the Imposter syndrome can bring clarity and even relief Cox says.
Internalize your successes and positive experiences
Another way of beating the Impostor syndrome is by celebrating all your successes. Many of us have mastered the act of blowing asides our wins and compliments, chalking down to everyone can do it as well so it’s not special. On the other hand, we retain criticisms and amplify them in our minds.
The next time you achieve something or someone praises you, let it sink and allow yourself to truly appreciate the win or being complimented. You can combat your own imposter syndrome by revisiting positive feedbacks and compliments.
Finally, realize you’re not alone
There’s really more of you out there. Cox suggests having open conversations about challenges is another way we can undercut feelings of impostorism — which may never entirely fade — because those common experiences can help us realize we’re not as alone in our insecurities as we feel.
Watch her simple explainer video that further elucidates the impostor syndrome below.
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