Is imposter syndrome a real thing? What causes imposter syndrome? Is it a common issue? Is it a symptom of other mental health concerns?
Initially, imposter syndrome was thought to apply primarily to high-achieving women. As time has progressed, it has been recognized as a more widely experienced phenomenon. Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate; it can impact anyone regardless of education, work, skill level, or expertise.
Impostor syndrome is referred to as feelings of self-doubt, anxiousness around perfection, and struggles with self-efficacy to such a degree that individuals feel “less than” despite the successes and achievements of any accomplishments in that area of their life.
Causes of Imposter Syndrome
Early studies suggest imposter syndrome has some possible connections to elements, including early family dynamics, possible gender stereotypes, as well as social dynamics and life experiences. The bottom line is that this experience can appear in people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders.
In fact, there are several common characteristics of imposter syndrome:
- Chronic feelings of inadequacy
- Feelings of fraud despite education/experience/successes
- Assigning success to external factors
- Criticizing your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Self-sabotaging behaviors
From time to time, I have had both personal and professional encounters with Imposter Syndrome and the experience, and after “processing” feelings, I wanted to learn more about the root of where these ideas and sensitivities generate from to create such a wave of doubts, insecurities, and self-distrust.
As I began my causal interest in the topic, it quickly shifted into a greater search for answers. Here is what I discovered:
There are five basic types of Imposter Syndrome:
- Perfectionist– Believes that one must be perfect, at all times, for all things, and unless perfect, there are thoughts (including cycles of overthinking) voicing “you could have done better.” Traits and behaviors supporting being “a perfectionist” keeps you confined to this cycle for fear of others knowing your humanist errors.
- Expert- Feels like an imposter because they need to learn more or have mastered every step in a process. Because they haven’t “mastered” the topic, they feel they have failed at becoming the “expert.”
- Natural Genius- As it implies, this individual feels like a fraud for not getting something right the first time.
- Soloist- If you have to ask for help to reach a certain level, one could also internally process this process from the view of an imposter with the reasoning that you had to ask for help to get there rather than your talents.
- Super person– Believing hard work and reaching the highest levels of achievement are required to be perfect. If you don’t, you are a fraud.
Possible Reasoning for Imposter Syndrome
There could be various reasons for Imposter Syndrome, and keep in mind that multiple variables and life experiences can influence these feelings. Research has suggested that our upbringings and family dynamics play a role in how we perceive ourselves and our successes. Parenting styles, levels of conflict/lack of support, and underlying forces in and around critical relationships are also possible factors in how we internalize and process feelings and interactions.
If you are curious about whether or not you might demonstrate some characteristics of imposter syndrome, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you struggle over the most minor mistakes or flaws in your work/performance?
- Do you assign your success to luck or external factors?
- Are you sensitive to feedback/constructive criticism?
- Do you feel like you will be discovered as a fraud?
- Do you tone down your expertise, even in areas where you are more skilled than others?
Coping With Imposter Syndrome
To get greater insight into this experience, maybe consider the below reflective inquiries as a guide to gain awareness of how you are decoding your efforts:
- What are my core opinions about myself?
- Do I believe I am worthy of appreciation/fondness/love as I am?
- Must I be perfect for others to approve of me?
In an effort to navigate through these feelings, it is helpful to become aware and address, confronting, some possible ingrained beliefs you have held onto for some time. As possible strategies, below are a few recommendations to consider as an approach to feeling less like an imposter and more towards reframing your perspective and strengths.
Try one or more:
- Question your perspective: Is your view based on facts or feelings?
- Take small steps: Focus on doing things well, not perfect.
- Stop comparing yourself to others: Finding fault is easier when you compare yourself to others.
- Social media: Take a break from the images and stories you read about every day. Chances are, it’s a narrative being promoted.
- Focus on others: Help others as a means of building your confidence.
- Talk to a therapist
Addressing Feelings of Imposter Syndrome
There’s no quick and easy treatment plan for imposter syndrome. Rather, moving through feelings of inadequacy requires consistent effort and strategies. Several recommendations are listed here:
- Consistent mindfulness approach and practice
- Working with a therapist utilizes cognitive behavior strategies
- Learning to embrace wins and successes
- Commitment to ceasing comparisons
- Be kind to youÓ
Having good awareness and insights into how you perceive yourself, your commitment to self, as well as your self-worth goes a long way to determining how you ultimately feel about yourself.
According to research, 70% experience at least one experience of imposter syndrome in their lifetime, so it’s a bit more frequent than we all imagine. So, we are not alone in our feelings of questioning our efforts.
If you are associating with any of the above content and want to chat for a 15-minute consultation about your thoughts, please reach out to me or a therapist you know to discuss healthy solutions.
If you want to learn more, let’s connect at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment. Until then, be well, my friends!
Dr. Shana Garrett