June 4, 2024

Signs You’re Struggling with Imposter Syndrome—& 9 Ways to Get Out of it.


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“Hmm..is this really for me?”

“I should be feeling happy, right?”

“Umm…why am I not feeling happy?”

“I guess I’m not sure if this is really meant for me. I mean, what if this is by fluke?”

These were some of the thoughts going through my mind when I received two awards last month.

One minute I was happy, and the next minute I was filled with self-doubt and disbelief! This happens every time I am recognised or complimented for something. I have this nagging voice that sits and questions every achievement no matter how small. It’s always doubting and making me feel like I’m a fake and I don’t really deserve whatever good is coming my way. This is when I am working hard, making sincere efforts, and I have the evidence right in front of me!

“No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?'” ~ Tom Hanks

Earlier, this would consume me completely. I would toss away and disregard everything because this little but overpowering voice would leave me overwhelmed and would suck the fun out of everything. However, over the years, I’ve grown as a person and professional and know better than to get sucked into this “Imposter Syndrome” that so many of us struggle with.

It is a psychological phenomenon marked by persistent feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy despite evident achievements.

When you’re struggling with this, you are likely to attribute your successes and achievements to luck or outside factors rather than your own competence. No matter what you do, your mind will keep telling you that it’s not you! This often leads us to overwork and do more in a bid to prove our worth to ourselves and to the world.

This is not a disorder or a condition. It’s just a way of looking at your own self. It’s a mindset stemming from the underlying belief that you’re not worthy or not good enough and it certainly can be worked on and changed.

According to research by Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on impostor syndrome and co-founder of the Impostor Syndrome Institute, and summarized in Verywell Mind, imposter syndrome typically manifests in five ways:

1. The Perfectionist: Chases perfection because they believe that nothing will ever be good enough if it’s not perfect. They keep pushing themselves to do better and better.

2. The Expert: Keeps learning more and more because they think they don’t know everything there is to know about a particular subject or topic, or they haven’t mastered every step in a process. Since there is always more for them to learn, they don’t feel as if they’ve reached the rank of “expert.”

3. The Natural Genius: Is the one who may feel like a fraud simply because they don’t believe that they are naturally intelligent or competent. If they don’t get something right the first time around or it takes them longer to master a skill, they feel like an imposter.

4. The Soloist: Is someone who feels like an imposter if they had to seek help or support to reach a certain status or milestone.

5. The Superperson: Is someone who feels the constant need to prove their worth by pushing themselves to work harder and achieve more than everyone else. They believe that they must excel in all areas of life—work, family, social activities—to be considered successful and to compensate for their perceived inadequacies.

While you may identify with one type, you may be a combination of all. Imposter syndrome is often characterised by the following behaviors:

1. Persistent self-doubt: Where you are constantly questioning your skills, capabilities, and achievements.

2. Attributing success to external factors: Whatever you achieve, you think it’s because of luck, fate, chance, or someone’s good mood, and you had nothing to do with it.

3. Fear of being exposed: You fear that maybe someone will one day realise that you aren’t as skilled, talented, and able as you appear to be.

4. Perfectionism: You end up setting really high standards for yourself and if you make a mistake or falter then you view this as incompetence or failure.

5. Overworking: You’re constantly pushing yourself to do more and more in order to prove your worth.

6. Inability to internalise success: You often end up dismissing your achievements as unimportant.

7. Comparison with others: You keep comparing yourself to others and feel that you’re constantly falling short.

8. Discounting praise: You disregard compliments or praise, feeling that the person giving the praise is just being nice or doesn’t see the “real” you or may be they want something from you.

9. Procrastination or over-preparation: You often end up delaying and avoiding tasks owing to the fear of failure and rejection.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

While there is no quick fix to get out of this, it is about giving yourself time and space to unlearn certain ways of thinking and approaching things to be able to trust yourself.

Here are some things that will help you along the way:

1. Acknowledge and accept your thoughts, ideas, and emotions about yourself instead of running away, dismissing, or rejecting such ideas.

2. Reflect on what has contributed to you feeling that you’re not worthy enough or don’t deserve your wins and achievements.

3. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

4. Start keeping track of your wins and achievements—no matter how small.

5. Surround yourself with the kind of people who believe in you, uplift you, and remind you of your value every now and then.

6. Assess your goals. If you tend to have extremely high standards or feel like you’re always falling short, then may be at some level you are trying to bite off more than you can chew!

7. Remind yourself that it’s the process that counts. If you make efforts in the right direction and with the right intention, sooner or later you will get there.

8. Understand that mistakes make you human and not a failure.

9. Stop reinforcing your negative ideas about yourself and reframe them instead. Instead of constantly telling yourself that you can’t do this, you’re not worthy, you don’t deserve this, and so on, reframe them to “I’ve got this,” “I deserve all good things,” ” I am good enough.” They may not feel natural in the beginning, but slowly your mind will catch up.

We all carry a bit of this imposter syndrome within us because we’re constantly told or made to feel that however we are or whatever we have to offer is not enough. The best part is that no one really knows what this enough is! It looks different for everyone, and we all need to find our own definition.

“You are not alone. Everyone feels like an imposter sometimes. The key is to not let it stop you.” ~ Adam Grant

Moreover, as much as we’d like to believe that our sense of self-worth depends on what we have to show for it, the fact is that when we believe in ourselves, we don’t need to rely on anyone or anything to make us feel worthy because we inherently know we are.

So no matter how big or small your wins may be, you deserve to give yourself a pat on your back, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You, my friend, are enough.

“Sometimes people get the feeling that they just don’t belong. They feel like frauds, as if someone is going to discover them for what they truly are. This is called “imposter syndrome.” But I say, if you’ve made it this far, you belong.” ~ Arlene Dickinson


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