Have you ever stood before a judge and had a strange feeling that you didn't belong there, despite all of your education and accomplishments? Perhaps you consider yourself a perfectionist and an overachiever, and yet it never feels like enough. You feel as though you are fooling your colleagues and stuck in a perpetual "fake it 'til you make it" phase. You feel like a fraud...or an imposter.
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be feeling the effects of Imposter Syndrome. This psychological phenomenon can affect anyone, from interns to executives. It can be an occasional feeling, or it can be a constant affliction that wears down your mental health over time. Read on to learn more about Imposter Syndrome and find out how you can combat these unwanted thoughts.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Verywell Mind defines Imposter Syndrome as "the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area." It's not a mental illness, but it is a feeling that can be linked with anxiety or depression, especially if left unchecked.
Imposter Syndrome can come in many forms. If you do not ace every challenge perfectly or do not know everything there is to know about a particular topic, you may feel like an imposter. If it takes a while for you to master a skill or you need help getting to the finish line, that can contribute to these feelings too. Those afflicted by Imposter Syndrome hold themselves to the highest standards possible and attribute their success to luck or other people. It's accompanied by a fear that one day they will be found out for what they are and lose the respect of their peers.
This phenomenon can have many causes as well. If you were under a great deal of pressure to succeed in your youth, it's likely to carry over into your adult years. If you're prone to perfectionism or anxiety, you're more likely to have it. Your gender can even play a role--women are proven to harbor more feelings of self-doubt than men.
No matter the form or the cause, Imposter Syndrome can be quite damaging to those who suffer from it. If any of this sounds relatable to you, try taking this Imposter Syndrome Test by PsychCentral to gain some more clarity on the matter.
Most importantly, how can you overcome such negative feelings when they're so deeply embedded within you?
Some try to compensate by working harder and harder, but this is not the answer. The first step is acknowledging your affliction. Share how you're feeling with others. You may find that they are going through the same thing. Talking about your problems can help you blow off steam and feel less overwhelmed. It's a form of therapy.
Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. As the saying goes, "Comparison is the thief of joy." If this is a bad habit of yours, it's best to stop those thoughts in their tracks. We all come equipped with our own skills and face our own struggles on a daily basis. Turn your comparisons into compliments for everyone involved. If someone has a trait that's admirable, use them as an inspiration to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down. Every time you acknowledge someone else's strengths, follow up with one of your own.
Practice positive self-talk and challenge your self-doubt. If you have negative, intrusive thoughts, write them down. Then write down all of your talents and accomplishments that counter them. If you receive a compliment from a boss, coworker, or client, write that down too and file it away! Build a case full of evidence against your own Imposter Syndrome and review it when you need it most.
When defeating Imposter Syndrome, it all comes down to reforming your way of thinking. This may take time and patience. If you need help, don't be afraid to look for it in others whether that's friends, family, or a therapist. If you struggle with your mental health, there are always resources available to help.