Do You Have Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?
The first thing to know is that you are not strange and you’re not alone. Millions of people (both men and women) suffer from self-doubt and feeling like a fraud … so many that Imposter Syndrome is a formally recognized condition for which there are definitions and treatments. In fact, about 70% of our population experiences this phenomenon. That means you’re in good company with lots of other great people who feel “in over their head.” Despite clear evidence of their talent, skills, or success, they think they’re over-rated. Some identify themselves as a perfectionist. They fear people will find out they’re not as talented or effective as they seem. They try to mask their insecurities. We’re going to identify five groups of people who share these thoughts. Then, we’ll explore some tips, tricks, and tools you can use to help yourself feel at ease with your accomplishments and confident about your future.
That brings me to the second point for you to realize, which is that – clearly – you ARE successful at whatever the issue is or you would not feel undeserving of your success! Think about it! So, let’s explore.
Expert, Dr. Valerie Young Teaches Us Now
“You can’t share your way out of Imposter Syndrome.
Feelings are the last to change. If you want to stop feeling like an imposter, you have to stop thinking like an imposter.
You don’t have to feel confident to act confident….over time you really will come to believe the new thoughts…and, when you do, you can stop trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome, and, instead, just use reframing to talk yourself down faster. That way, instead of having an Imposter life, you can have an Imposter moment.” ~ Dr. Valerie Young. TED Archive Published on Jun 5, 2017
Five Groups of People Experiencing Imposter Syndrome
World-renowned author, Dr. Valerie Young wrote The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It. I urge you to buy her book to take advantage of her research and wisdom. She has categorized people who identify with Imposter Syndrome into five groups.
What They Have In Common
One thing they all have in common is a belief they must adhere to a level of competence, which is unrealistic and unsustainable. In other words, each of these kinds of folks is a perfectionist in some way. A difference between people who do and who don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome is that those who don’t accept the fact that no-one, including themselves, is perfect at anything.
Here are the categories into which Dr. Young divides people who do experience self-doubt.
- The Perfectionist
- The Superwoman/man
- The Natural Genius
- The Soloist
- The Expert
Primary Traits of Each Group
Young says each group has its unique focus. I quote her description of each:
- The Perfectionist’s primary focus is on “how” something is done. This includes how the work is conducted and how it turns out. One minor flaw in an otherwise stellar performance or 99 out of 100 equals failure and thus shame.
- The Expert is the knowledge version of the Perfectionist. Here, the primary concern is on “what” and “how much” you know or can do. Because you expect to know everything, even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame.
- The Soloist cares mostly about “who” completes the task. To make it on the achievement list, it has to be you and you alone. Because you think you need to do and figure out everything on your own, needing help is a sign of failure that evokes shame.
- The Natural Genius also cares about “how” and “when” accomplishments happen. But for you, competence is measured in terms of ease and speed. The fact that you have to struggle to master a subject or skill or that you’re not able to bang out your masterpiece on the first try equals failure which evokes shame.
- The Superwoman/Superman/Super Student measures competence based on “how many” roles they can both juggle and excel in. Falling short in any role — as a parent, partner, on the home-front, host/hostess, friend, volunteer — all evoke shame because they feel they should be able to handle it all — perfectly and easily.
Basic Beliefs of People with Imposter Syndrome
In her book, Young shares what she has learned in a research career dedicated to studying fraudulent feelings among high achievers. She says people who experience Imposter Syndrome think things like,
“If I were really intelligent, capable, competent…
I should know everything in my field
I should get it right the first time
I should excel in everything I do
I’d always know the answer
I’d always understand what I’m reading
I’d always feel confident
I’d never make a mistake
I’d never be confused
I’d never need help.”
Young says, “If you want to truly put yourself on the fast track to feeling as bright and capable as you really are, then nothing — and I do mean nothing — will get you there quicker than adjusting your beliefs about what it takes to be competent.“
More Insights and Suggestions About Imposter Syndrome
The Muse (a website offering career advice) features several articles on this subject.
Contributing author, Ximena Vengoechea says,
“The irony is that the further you go in your career, the more opportunities there are for imposter syndrome to rear its ugly head. You didn’t get that promotion because you earned it, you got it because you were lucky. You didn’t get to lead that project because you had the most experience on the team—you got it because timing worked out.”
Steps To Take
In her Muse article, Vengoechea suggests several steps for handling the situation. I suggest you read it in its entirety, but here are excerpts. For example,
- “Remind Yourself of All of Your Achievements….If you don’t have an accomplishments box, start now by recounting your most recent accomplishments.” (She suggests you Write it down, Keep it visible. Review it often. Rinse and repeat.)
- “Remind Yourself That the People Who Got You Here Are Incredibly Competent and They Did Not Make a Mistake.”
- “Take a Hard Look at Your Language and Update It with more confident, assertive phrases…. Assume your questions are valid, and that you’re probably not the only one to have them.”
I, Nancy Wyatt, would add that great tools for this endeavor include Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and the Emotional Freedom Technique (“EFT” or “Tapping”). These links are to my own website for my Life Coaching services (My Get Well Guru). Another effective technique can be HypnoMeditations, which I also use in counseling and offer to you as a meditation/self-hypnosis tool customized just for you.
- “Reframe Your Story by Writing it Down” ~ as if you were introducing yourself or another person at a conference. Again, I refer you to her article for details about this great idea.
- “Try Mentoring. You have expertise to share. Share it with someone who needs it. Not only will you realize how much knowledge you really do have, you’ll also likely uncover new strengths in the process. Mentoring can reveal skills you took for granted or mistakenly assumed came from luck. It’s empowering to know you are helping someone in his or her journey, too.”
- “Say your personal mantra. Do your power pose. You’ve got this.”
Melody Wilding Expands on the Five Categories
In another Muse article by Melody Wilding, she defines Imposter Syndrome this way.
Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions.
1. The Perfectionist
- Have you ever been accused of being a micromanager?
- Do you have great difficulty delegating? Even when you’re able to do so, do you feel frustrated and disappointed in the results?
- When you miss the (insanely high) mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for your job and ruminate on it for days?
- Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?
2. The Superwoman/man
- Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work?
- Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?
- Have you let your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside, sacrificed to work?
- Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?
3. The Natural Genius
Are you used to excelling without much effort?
- Do you have a track record of getting “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in everything you do?
- Were you told frequently as a child that you were the “smart one” in your family or peer group?
- Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own?
- When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?
- Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?
4. The Soloist
- Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own?
- “I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you?
- Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?
5. The Expert
- Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single educational requirement?
- Are you constantly seeking out trainings or certifications because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed?
- Even if you’ve been in your role for some time, can you relate to feeling like you still don’t know “enough”?
- Do you shudder when someone says you’re an expert?
Experiencing Imposter Syndrome Means…
A different Muse contributing author is Benjamin Brandall, who says,
The reason you’re feeling like a fraud is because you’re scared of losing a job that’s extremely important to you.
But, he adds that suffering from Imposter Syndrome means several positive things:
- You’re living your dream
- You are making dizzying progress
Above all, if you change The Critic inside your head into The Coach inside your head by changing your thoughts, this “affliction” can become a trigger for building self-confidence, because you begin accepting yourself as meriting success and can continue expanding your success without deep feelings of self-doubt. Many of us are perfectionists, meaning we set unrealistic expectations and standards for ourselves. In other words, perfection in every aspect of our lives and activities, at all times cannot be achieved. However, you can be notably competent and successful. You can, in fact, believe in yourself!
Contact Me for Life Coaching Services re Imposter Syndrome
In conclusion, if you would like to schedule some Life Coaching sessions to help you with Imposter Syndrome, read more about my services (on My Get Well Guru website) or contact me at MyPersuasivePresentations@gmail.com. To learn more about my relevant background, Click Here.
Related: How Feeling Like A Fraud Has Helped My Career
Related: Three Steps For Breaking The Impostor Syndrome Cycle by Paul Davis-Laack.
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