When was the last time you felt like a fraud?
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be (wikipedia).
Can anyone relate? I know I can. I think I’m not the only one who feels at the top of the world on good days and that everything is achievable, and on the worst days it feels that nothing is enough and actually you’re deceiving yourself and the world by acting as you know what you are doing. Even if you have felt the same or feel so today, our ‘switches’ may not be the same or the way we live through it. I thought maybe it would be helpful for you or anyone else to analyse and understand which are the different types of ‘impostors’ syndrome and the questions that help define which one are you. These types have been developed by Valerie Young and can be read in greater detail in her book ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It’.
Perfectionists set too high goals for themselves and, if they do not achieve their goal, they are in great doubt and worried that they are adequate compared to others. Whether they understand it themselves or not, the representatives of this group can be control freaks who feel that if they want something to be done right, they have to do it themselves. For them, the most important question is “How is this done?”
For this type, success is rarely satisfactory, because they believe they could have done better. If they do not reach the maximum, it is as well as a failure. However, this behaviour is neither productive nor healthy. Accepting and celebrating results is essential if you want to avoid burnout, find inner satisfaction, and feel confident.
- Have you ever been accused of trying to micromanage?
- Do you have difficulty delegating? And even if you do, you’re disappointed with the results and generally frustrated?
- If you fail to achieve your (obviously too ambitious) goal, you will feel that you have failed and think about it even days later.
- Do you feel that everything you do needs to be perfect?
Since the people who experience this phenomenon are convinced that they are “frauds”, they often force themselves to work harder and longer to be equal to their peers. But it is just a way to hide their uncertainty, and such a workload can damage not only their own mental health but also their relationship with others.
Workaholic impostors are actually dependent on the recognition that comes from working, not from work itself. For them, the most important thing is that they are excellent in all their roles. Having failed in some of their roles – for example, as a parent, friend, employee – creates shame in them and they expect to be able to do their best in all their roles.
- Will you stay later in the office than the rest of your team, maybe even after you finish the job you need to do for that day?
- Do you get stressed when you are not working and you find that rest and leisure are a complete waste?
- Have you left your hobbies and passions aside by sacrificing them to work?
- Do you feel that you do not really deserve your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements) and therefore try to work more and harder than your colleagues to prove your worth?
the Natural Genius
People with this competence believe they must be natural “geniuses”. They appreciate their abilities in this regard as easy and fast they achieve the goal, not their efforts to do it . In other words, if they take a lot of time to acquire something, they feel ashamed.
People of this type are imposing their inner bar impossibly high, as well as perfectionists do, but ‘natural geniuses’ do not just think of ridiculously high expectations, but also expect things to be done in the first attempt.
- Are you used to achieving your goals without much effort?
- In the past, have you had straight A’s or been the best’in everything you do?
- Have you often been told as a child that you were ‘the smart one’ in your family or among your peers?
- Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor because you can manage things independently?
- When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?
- Do you often avoid contests / trying something new, because it’s uncomfortable to try something that you’re not great at?
People who feel that when they ask for help, reveal that they are frauds. For them, it is important who achieves the goal. It to be an achievement for them, they will have to achieve it alone, otherwise it would not be their achievement. It is okay to be independent, but not so much as to refuse to accept help, so that you can prove your worth.
- Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own?
- ‘I don’t need someone’s help.’ Does it sound like you?
- Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?
Experts measure their competence ‘what’ and ‘how much’ they know or can do. Believing they never know enough, they are afraid that they seem to be inexperienced or lacking knowledge.
- Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single educational requirement?
- Are you constantly looking for trainings or certificates because you think you need to improve your skills to be successful?
- Even if you’ve been in the role for some time, do you still feel you don’t know enough?
- Does it make you feel odd when someone call you an expert?
How do you get out of this closed circle to feel that you’re not talented or hardworking or experienced or… ( enter your feeling) enough
- Talk about it – shame denies many of us to admit we have such feelings. However, knowing that you are not alone, but that others feel the same, means that you no longer feel like an outsider.’
- Separate your feelings from the facts – we all feel at one or another moment stupid or incompetent, but realise that it how you feel, not who you are.
- Understand when you feel like a impostor – it may be related to the fact that you are working in an environment where you are the only one of your age group or gender, and in fact these feelings are simply due to being an outsider.
- Emphasise the positive – as a perfectionist, you assume that everything needs to be always perfect. Focus on doing the most important tasks for yourself and accept that in some minor tasks you might make mistakes.
- Develop a new way of dealing with failures – instead of beating yourself down because of failing, take it as learning point and move on.
- Review your ‘rules’ – you can’t always do the best or do it yourself, so it’s time to rethink these principles.
- Find a new way of thinking – try not to think, for example, in a new job that “they will soon realise that I am not really competent” but that “everyone makes mistakes at first and that’s ok”.
- Visualise success – Negative thoughts will not help anyone in life, so imagine the positive outcome , which will also contribute to achieving your goal.
- Reward yourself – don’t constantly wait for the praise from others and when getting it, feel that it’s not true. Accept that your approval is enough.
- Fake it till you make it – from time to time, we just have to pretend we know what we are doing before we actually do. Instead of feeling deceptive or a impostor, use it as a learning moment to develop yourself. That means don’t wait until you’re perfect to get started, but give yourself a chance and risk.
Do you feel sometimes as you are an impostor? Be it parenting, at work or with your hobby? Which of these five is your type?