The Truth About Imposter Syndrome: Why You're Not Alone and How to Handle It
Previously we explored how to increase self confidence. In this post we look deeper at Imposter Syndrome and ways to address overcoming it.
In my work as coach and as a trainer for an international coaching school, I speak with so many amazingly accomplished individuals. Sadly, there are a great number of them who, despite their successes, still feel like a fraud. I've had CEOs tell me that they don't feel like they are worthy of their positions, despite their track record of success.
They spend countless hours worrying and trying to be perfect. They work long hours and are never satisfied with their efforts. Even when someone praises them, they deflect the compliment or don't believe it.
This article explores imposter syndrome and looks at how it's different from other forms of self doubt. There are also a few suggestions on how to begin to overcome imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome anyway?
Imposter syndrome is a common and often distressing psychological phenomenon in which individuals have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud or a failure, despite evidence to the contrary. It is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and insecurity, and it can affect individuals in many different areas of their lives, including work, relationships, and personal goals. Imposter syndrome is different from other forms of self-doubt in several ways, and it is important to understand the distinctions between these two experiences in order to effectively manage and overcome imposter syndrome.
How is Imposter Syndrome different from good old self doubt?
One key difference between imposter syndrome and self-doubt is the intensity and pervasiveness of the experience. Imposter syndrome is typically accompanied by intense feelings of anxiety, shame, and self-criticism, and it can have a significant impact on individuals' confidence, motivation, and performance. Imposter syndrome is often accompanied by a fear of failure, a need for perfection, and a tendency to minimize or dismiss successes and accomplishments. In contrast, other forms of self-doubt may be more focused on specific areas or tasks, and they may not be as intense or pervasive. For example, an individual may experience self-doubt about their ability to give a presentation or write a paper, but this self-doubt may not necessarily extend to other areas of their life, and it may not be as intense or overwhelming.
“I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be.” -Lady Gaga
Another key difference between imposter syndrome and self-doubt is the duration and persistence of the experience. Imposter syndrome can be a chronic and persistent experience, and it may continue to affect individuals even after they have achieved success or recognition. Individuals with imposter syndrome may continue to feel like frauds or imposters, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and they may have difficulty internalizing their achievements and accomplishments. In contrast, other forms of self-doubt may be more transitory and context-dependent, and they may be more responsive to feedback, support, and evidence of success. For example, an individual may experience self-doubt about their ability to learn a new skill or perform a specific task but accept feelings of accomplishment when they are successful.
So what can I do?
To begin overcoming imposter syndrome it essential to first understand the causes and characteristics of imposter syndrome, and how it differs from other forms of self-doubt or insecurity. Self awareness is key to making progress as is eliminating the need for perfection. Accepting our fallibility and realizing that even the people we admire most have shortcomings can help with reducing negative self talk.
Some things to consider:
Identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to imposter syndrome, such as perfectionism, self-criticism, and fear of failure.
Developing self-compassion and mindfulness to help manage and reduce feelings of imposter syndrome. Creating a habit of daily meditation or centering can help.
Build a support network of trusted friends, mentors, and colleagues who can provide encouragement and validation.
Begin setting and achieving realistic goals, and recognizing and celebrating successes and accomplishments.
Remind yourself regularly that perfectionism drives imposter syndrome. There is no need to be perfect. Everyone has faults and flaws and occasionally makes mistakes.
Seek professional help, such as therapy or coaching, if imposter syndrome is interfering with daily life or causing significant distress.
The Bottom Line
I'm sharing this with you today because I feel it's important to realize that you aren't alone if you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome. There are also steps you can take to alleviate the suffering that comes with perfectionism. You can change your thinking and you can feel differently.
Comment below on what your Imposter voice tells you and I invite you to challenge it by sharing something you appreciate about yourself.
Where to go from here
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