I don’t have a problem dealing with imposter syndrome. People are just constantly mistaken about how good my achievements are…
If you are dealing with imposter syndrome you may feel that you do not deserve your success, you don’t have enough experience, or you are deceiving people about your abilities. You may feel like a fraud that may be “found out”, or have complicated feelings about achievements and perceived skill levels.
Research (which admits there are holes in the current data) says that the occurrence of imposter syndrome is up to 82% of the population.
However, I was recently at a conference with almost 200 coaches and 100% of the group reported experiencing some form of imposter syndrome. The group also expected to see manifestations in all of their high-achieving coaching clients. So anecdotally, I think this is something we all struggle with.
Originally, imposter syndrome came to light in a study of high-performing women in the 1980s. So, some consider the effects to be associated with gender. But, recent studies have shown that everyone can experience its effects.
There are a number of things that can contribute to imposter syndrome. Factors such as internal beliefs (“I am not good enough”), emotions or personality can be relevant. Symptoms may be influenced by past experiences, relationships and perceived skills. Or, elements in the external environment such as culture, hierarchies and societal stereotypes (eg. the feelings from being a minority in a room) can contribute.
5 Types of imposters
Valarie Young in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (Crown Business, 2011) proposed there are 5 types of imposter syndrome.
- The Perfectionist: Who strives for perfection and is never satisfied with their work. Feels negative about perceived flaws.
- The Superhero: Who pushes themselves hard and tries to do it all. Feels negative emotions if they feel they are not handling things perfectly and easily.
- The Expert: Who is never satisfied with their level of understanding. Often highly skilled. Feels negative emotions if there is a lack of knowledge.
- The Natural genius: Who sets big goals then feels negative if they don’t succeed the first try.
- The Soloist: Whose self-worth comes from productivity. Sees asking for help as a sign of weakness which creates negative emotions.
Chances are you identify with one major type. But, it is common to identify with other types to a lesser degree as well.
The effects of imposter syndrome can be felt throughout all areas of your life. Including:
- Your emotional and psychological health
- The trajectory of your career
- Your relationships
- Your performance in tasks and work
- Your physical health and wellbeing (stemming from emotional issues)
Given these far-reaching effects – it is important to deal with imposter syndrome if you feel it is a problem for you. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do.
10 tips to help you deal with imposter sydrome
Identify your thoughts & beliefs
The first step is to understand how the negative emotions associated with your imposter syndrome come into play. Chances are if you are reading this you already have some idea. Do you know what triggers these emotions? Do you know what effect they are having in your life?
A great place to start is to self-reflect on which of the 5 types of imposters show up for you.
If you have identified that imposter syndrome affects your life – reach out to someone.
Discuss it with your friends and family or reach out to a mentor. Finding support will remind you that you are not alone and help to take action.
Imposter syndrome or phenomenon is not a psychological diagnosis. But it is recognised as a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, which can be addressed with professional interventions.
So, if you are struggling, seek professional psychological support.
Remember your health
There are a number of ways that the emotional stress of imposter syndrome can impact your physical health. So, looking after yourself and having healthy routines is important.
Understand your purpose
Knowing why you do what you do is important. If your actions and achievements are grounded in a sense of purpose it can give you the strength to push through negative emotions.
Deal with your thoughts
There are a number of ways to deal with the unhelpful thoughts that accompany imposter syndrome. Search for evidence to support your feelings (often you will find there is none there), acknowledge thoughts and accept them for what they are (thoughts not facts to ruminate on) and reframe thoughts more positively (see things for the opportunities that they are).
Seek resources to move forward
Reach out to a coach or find other material to help you move forward. There are lots of great resources that are a few clicks away to help you on your journey.
Measure your successes
It is important to understand what success means to you and how you can measure it. This will allow you to track your progress against meaningful benchmarks rather than relying on external feedback that may trigger complicated emotions.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Confidence will always catch up with you. So, don’t shy away from new opportunities. Take risks and leaps forward when you can and your (well deserved) confidence will follow.
Accentuate the positive
Along with the negatives of dealing with imposter syndrome, there are positives that you can harness. For most of us, imposter syndrome drives us to work hard to overcome our perceived issues.
Embrace this work ethic and use it to your advantage (while reframing those negative thoughts).
Are you actually a genius?
There is one last thing I want to say about dealing with imposter syndrome. And for me – it is the most important.
When you are feeling like a fraud, or people are overplaying your achievements, which of these options are more likely?
a) That 100% of the people around you aren’t smart enough to realise you don’t deserve to be there or they are lying to you about your achievements. Or,
b) 100% of the people around you are correct and you have some imposter syndrome to work on?
If you have fooled 100% of the people around you to believe you are something you are not – you aren’t a fraud – you are a genius!