What is imposter syndrome and how do you overcome it

Posted On Jul 13, 2022 |

The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is to start shifting your mindset by understanding what imposter syndrome is and why it happens.

What is Imposter Syndrome and How Do You Overcome It?

Do you ever have a feeling that you’re not good enough? That despite years of training and honing your skills you’re actually a fraud? Believe it or not, this feeling is very common. In fact, up to 82% of people report having felt this way at some point in their career.

This feeling of inadequacy is called imposter syndrome, and it can make you feel stuck in your career. Many people find themselves struggling to advance or take risks because they feel like a fraud and like other people are more qualified or more skilled.

Overcoming imposter syndrome starts with understanding it and knowing exactly where it comes from.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a belief that many people hold deeply and have a difficult time getting past. It was first studied in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance. Some people assumed it was tied to depression and anxiety, but with time we’ve realized this is not true.

In fact, some people claim calling it a “syndrome” is inaccurate and misleading. It’s more of a universal feeling, part of the human condition that many people experience. Overcoming it starts with understanding where it comes from.

Where Does Imposter Syndrome Come From?

Many people who suffer from imposter syndrome are highly skilled individuals. They are intelligent, talented, and very good at what they do. They tend to surround themselves with people who are also talented and intelligent.

This is how the spiral of imposter syndrome can start. We see the successes of the people around us and our own accomplishments begin to feel inadequate. Furthermore, we assume that those successes came about without struggle or difficulty.

What makes the spiral even worse is no one talks about it. So few people are willing to share their struggles that we assume success and confidence comes easily to others. This isn’t always true. The majority of people share the feeling of imposter syndrome, and the more we internalize that we’re not alone, the easier it is to overcome.

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Dr. Valerie Young, a leading researcher of imposter syndrome, describes five types of imposters. According to Dr. Young, these types relate to how a person views being competent at a task, skill, or job. These internal beliefs are key for discovering how to overcome imposter syndrome.

The Expert

The expert type of imposter feels inadequate when they can’t answer a question or don’t immediately know of a solution to a problem in their area of expertise. They have high expectations for themselves when it comes to their knowledge.

Experts don’t consider themselves to be successful until they know absolutely everything there is to know about their chosen field. This means they can end up stuck with no forward progress because they are so focused on gathering knowledge.

The Individualist

Individualists expect to be able to handle everything on their own. They consider it a failure if they need to ask for help.

If they do accept help or support to get through a rough patch, they can end up feeling even more inadequate. It becomes a vicious cycle. An individualist only considers themselves successful when they can handle everything by themselves. Unfortunately, this can backfire and keep them stuck.

The Perfectionist

The perfectionist type of imposter focuses very specifically on how they do things. They demand perfection in everything, even outside of the workplace.

This puts a heavy burden on the perfectionist type because there is no such thing as perfection. Inevitably, when something doesn’t go perfectly, they feel like a failure. Because of this, they often avoid trying new things that would require practice to become good at. This can cause them to struggle to learn new things or gain new skills.

The Genius

If someone picks up new information and skills easily, they may have the genius type of imposter syndrome. This means they can get thrown off by hardship.

Genius types typically accomplish things easily. When they have a hard time with something, they often feel incompetent and like a failure. They expect competent people to be able to tackle any task with ease and may be embarrassed by struggle.

The Superhero

Superheroes feel successful when they push themselves to the limit and rise above everyone’s expectations. Except their own. They have extremely high standards for themselves and expect that they will be able to handle anything that comes their way.

The superhero type of imposter will expend massive amounts of energy to succeed in every single role that they have. This includes outside of the workplace. They struggle with failure if they feel inadequate in any part of their life.

5 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Many people dealing with imposter syndrome feel like it’s impossible to overcome. They end up having thought spirals that take them round and round why they can’t possibly be any good at what they do. But there are several things that can help break this cycle and put an end to imposter syndrome.

1. Share Your Feelings

If you feel like an imposter in your career, one of the best ways to overcome that feeling is to share it. When you talk to coworkers or friends and family, you’ll be surprised by the positive feedback you can receive. Talking to other people gives you the chance to see a different perspective of yourself.

The worst thing you can do is bottle it up and let it fester. When you talk to someone and share how you’re feeling, you open the door for validation and reassurance. Chances are you’ll get a different view on how amazing you are.

2. Share Successes

It’s so easy to let successes fade away. Instead, make a point to celebrate and share your successes, even if they’re small. Text a friend, share a post, or even go out to dinner at that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to check out. Whatever it is, do something to celebrate your accomplishments.

One easy way to keep track of things that go well is to keep a success journal. Many of us feel awkward sharing small successes, but a journal gives you a place to joyfully write about your triumphs. When you feel imposter syndrome creeping back up on you, go back and read about all your amazing accomplishments.

3. Share Failures

It is just as important to share failures as it is to share successes. Acknowledging places where you need to improve helps you to grow and become even more of an expert in your field. It also helps you process what went wrong and what you can do differently in the future.

Talking with anyone about areas where you struggle is difficult, but it’s the fastest way to figure out what went wrong. It’s also a great way to get reassurance and feedback on how to improve. Ultimately, it’s an important part of the learning process and can help you strengthen your resilience.

4. Let Go of Perfectionism

Perfection is an impossible illusion. No one wants to be embarrassed by feeling like the only person who can’t do something, but the truth is that everyone experiences this struggle. We tell ourselves all the time that no one is perfect, and we need to develop strategies to start believing it.

You can have high standards for success while realizing that being perfect is impossible. When you adjust how you measure success, you make it easier to internalize your accomplishments. One way to make this adjustment is to focus on the progress you are making instead of only looking at the end goal. This helps you realize how far you’ve come.

5. Realize You’re Not Alone

Most people deal with imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. Even the person you most admire and look up to has felt like a fraud or a failure. No one can be good at everything, and realizing this can be the key to overcoming feelings of inadequacy.

Talking about it is the first step in overcoming imposter syndrome. Remember, the spiral starts because we assume no one else struggles the way we do. This is just not true. The majority of people deal with these feelings and are looking for ways to get past it.

Shifting Your Mindset

The best way to overcome imposter syndrome is to start shifting your mindset. Understanding what imposter syndrome is and why it happens is the first step in doing this. When you can clearly understand why you feel like an imposter, you can start working to change those thoughts.

Think about which type of imposter syndrome you experience most often. Once you have an idea of how you react in difficult situations, then you can begin making a plan for how to address it.

You’re not alone. Remember that nearly everyone has experienced imposter syndrome at some point during their life. And the more we talk about it and share our experiences, the easier it will be to change that mindset and realize just how amazing each of us is.

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Categories: mindset