What is Imposter Syndrome?

By: Chris Anderson Psy.D.

This psychological phenomenon refers to a feeling that people have around doubting their own competence, skill, ability, or achievements. They tend to believe they are essentially frauds, and it is only a matter of time before they are found out or called out. Some instances of this are fairly normal such as when people move into a new position for the first time. For example, someone promoted into a management role who has never managed people before may feel like they are an imposter based on their lack of actual experience managing people. This quickly fades for many people once they get their feet under themselves and gain some mastery over the role and responsibilities. For others, the imposter syndrome is much more persistent and pervasive. Some highly accomplished and well-respected individuals wrestle with imposter syndrome. It is estimated that as many as 25% of high achievers suffer with imposter syndrome.

Where Does Imposter Syndrome Come From?

It would seem that certain personality traits underlie a lot of imposter syndrome. People struggling with low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and perfectionism are primed to develop imposter syndrome. They tend to doubt their abilities, discount successes and attribute them to external factors such as luck or good timing rather than their own innate ability. Perfectionists often feel anything less than 100% perfect is a failure and accordingly doubt their ability and feel inadequate, even amid the envy and admiration of others who wish they could achieve at that level. There are also studies that find that growing up in highly competitive families where success is put on a pedestal are prone to feeling intense pressure to perform and achieve and anything less can breed anxiety, depression, and self-doubt which could fuel the imposter syndrome.

How Do You Overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Much of the imposter syndrome is a product of self-perception and identity. A deep dive looking into cognitions and beliefs about self and working to modify and change expectations and standards can make all the difference. Realizing no one is perfect, and you don’t have to be either, can allow yourself to be human and better assess the shades of gray that are more reflective of true reality. Extremes rarely exist and almost never persist. No one person should expect too either. Learning to own accomplishments and feel pride in them not only bolsters self-esteem but helps to eradicate the imposter syndrome. Examining facts and evidence in order to see things as they really are and having realistic and attainable goals and standards will allow you to better assess your abilities. Learning to celebrate successes and accept failures as part of the process of development can curtail the imposter syndrome.

If you are struggling with imposter syndrome and want to work on putting less pressure on yourself, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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