“I don’t deserve this. Make it stop. What happens if they realize I’m the dumbest person in this room?!” Have you ever had this thought shoot across your mind after being praised by a teacher or boss? In that moment, surrounded by your peers, you don’t feel you don’t belong there. That thought is a sign you may have imposter syndrome.
What’s Imposter Syndrome?
While it’s not an official diagnosis, psychologists and mental health counselors alike acknowledge that there’s a phenomenon where individuals question the validity of their successes. Imposter syndrome often occurs in high achievers who are incapable of internalizing their success and attribute their accomplishments to sheer luck rather than their own competence. These perfectionists fear being found out as a fraud which can lead to the not so fun feelings of anxiety and depression. So where do these distressing (and sometimes annoying) feelings come from?
Was it Mom and Dad?
That’s a possibility. People who feel like frauds often report that they were raised in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. If your parents sent mixed messages (i.e. switching between over-praise and criticism), the likelihood of future fraudulent feelings increases even more.
Are you embarking on a new journey?
It’s normal to feel a little anxiety and apprehension when you’re starting out in a new school, program, or job. But for people with imposter syndrome those feelings multiple by 10. They experience an overwhelming sense of dread that they’ll be found out or that they lack the intelligence and skills needed to succeed in their new endeavor.
People experiencing imposter syndrome make it difficult to recognize their own success because they set unrealistic expectations for themselves. One way they do this is by spending an inordinate amount of time perfecting their work and themselves in anticipation of possible criticism. This over functioning leads to significant stress and eventually burn out.
Another way people that feel like frauds cope with self-imposed unrealistic expectations is by under-functioning. They put off tasks and responsibilities out of fear of not doing them “right”. In some cases, they can become dependent on others around them to do the tasks for them, establishing a codependent relationship.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.
Many talented people at the top of their fields such as Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and even Maya Angelou have expressed experiencing imposter syndrome. Be assured that you’re not a fraud. Here are some ways can build your confidence and learn to embrace your success.
Call it imposter syndrome. Giving it a name will help you destigmatize how you’re feeling. It’ll also help you learn more about it which could provide comfort and knowledge that you are not strange or wrong for feeling this way.
Talk to other “imposters”: Connecting with others that have similar experiences of feeling like frauds can help you feel less alone. You’ll realize that others that looked like they had it all figured also feel the same doubts and fears you do.
Keep a compliment journal: Keeping track of compliments that you’ve received for your successes and abilities can help you focus on accepting praise rather than dismissing them as perceived deceit on your part.
Make an appointment with a counselor: Individual therapy can help you identify the cyclical thinking that accompanies imposter syndrome and replaces them with healthier thoughts and behaviors.
Show off your expertise a little: Tutoring or mentoring beginners can give you a more accurate sense of how much you’ve learned and can offer others.
You’ve got a lot of unique talents and perspective to share with the world. Don’t let feeling like a fraud keep you from making an impact. Our new online workshop, Daring Greatly™, might be just the thing you need to overcome imposter syndrome and feel more confident in yourself.