“What am I doing here?”
“I don’t think I belong.”
“I’m a fraud, and eventually everyone’s going to find out.”
This could be a capture of a typical inner dialogue for imposter syndrome. You may have also heard the term imposter syndrome before, but what does it exactly entail?
“Imposter syndrome” is a term that psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance first used in the 1970s. Despite the name, imposter syndrome is not an actual syndrome but more of an internal experience almost anyone can have. It is not a diagnosable mental illness either, but rather a collection of thoughts that signify a mismatch between how you perceive yourself and how others do. It usually involves persistent ideas of self-doubt and incompetence regardless of the personal success one may have accomplished. It may manifest in an inability to recognize realistically one’s achievements, skills and competence.
Often a person who struggles with imposter syndrome-related thoughts may have a fear that eventually they will be “found out” as a fraud or an imposter. This feeling generally emerges from the experience of thinking less of oneself than what is realistic. This constant doubt in one’s ability to live up to certain expectations might reinforce overachieving and perfectionism. It is not rare for someone experiencing these thoughts to attribute their successes and achievements to luck or a fluke.
Working harder to improve yourself if you feel like an imposter may not help or change your self-image. So, if these thoughts seem familiar how to deal with them?
Awareness of these thoughts is a powerful place to start when dealing with them. Talking about your feelings with others, challenging your pessimistic beliefs, and refraining from comparing yourself to others are great strategies for working with imposter syndrome.
Practising to make more realistic assessments of your skills or abilities can help you appreciate your accomplishments more. You can also get assistance from a mental health professional in identifying effective coping strategies. Although you would be dealing with typical thought patterns of imposter syndrome, you shouldn’t let it hold you back from pursuing your goals.