What is ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
‘Imposter Syndrome’ is not a scientific term, but is often used to describe feelings of doubt, insecurity and fear of being ‘found out’, this is the definition that will be used in the context of this article. People who have feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’ often report being plagued with guilt and worry that they will be exposed as having gotten where they are with luck or deception rather than merit.
What are the potential causes of ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
Many people experience ‘imposter syndrome’, regardless of age, wealth, or educational level. One potential cause could be a lack of time spent with people who make us feel safe and connected. When this is the case, we are much more likely to engage in negative self talk, the root of most of our negative emotions.
Another likely cause is social media, especially pages and feeds that display a desirable but currently unattainable lifestyle. This can lead to an internalised sense that one must be “perfect” at all times in order to be accepted by the group or society as a whole, therefore any success that we experience will fall short by our own standards.
Finally, individuals often report these feelings when confronted with taking risks. The potential for mistake can cause people to feel the signature emotions of doubt, fear and insecurity. Ultimately, it’s important to trust in your abilities that have brought you to this position in the first place, and realise that the most successful people have made thousands of mistakes to get where they are. The most important thing is to take note and learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them.
How to manage ‘imposter syndrome’
Before we get into ways of managing ‘imposter syndrome’, is it important to know that fundamentally, you are experiencing; anxiety, doubt, fear and insecurity. These are all natural human responses to an unfamiliar and challenging environment. Therefore, when you choose to continue despite the fear, the typical definition of what we are dealing with is actually very similar to the definition of bravery.
‘the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty’
Positive affirmations may seem like pseudo-science but it is a practice that can be a powerful tool when negative self talk inevitably rears it’s ugly head. By using self affirmations, you can change any subconscious beliefs that are causing you to feel insecurity, fear or doubt. These affirmations should be specific, and positive. Speak as if you are already have the qualities you desire for example; ‘I am more than qualified for this role’ or ‘I feel confident speaking up in meetings’, instead of ‘I wish I felt more qualified for this role’ or ‘I will stop being so shy’.
Developing a healthy relationship with criticism is essential in order to overcome feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’, and manage it for the better. Criticism should not be avoided but acknowledged, as it can provide valuable insight and help us grow if we take the time to reflect on it and use it to our advantage.
The first step in developing a healthy relationship with criticism is separating the message from the messenger. It’s important to recognise that criticism often comes from a place of misunderstanding, which can lead to feelings of frustration and anger. Remind yourself that, rather than personal attacks on your character or abilities, this is an opportunity for growth and development.
Awareness of the side effects of Social Media
Taking a break from social media can be an effective way of managing and reducing feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’. Social media provides a platform that acts as a distorted representation of reality, where everyone you see has the physique of a model and is living a life of luxury.
Subconsciously and often consciously, we compare ourselves to them, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. The more of this type of content we consume, the more we internalise the idea that we are behind the curve at each stage of our life.
If this is something you struggle with, it’s best that you make an effort to cut out this type of content. If it is unavoidable, it might be best to stops engaging with that platform altogether.
Taking the steps to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’ can be daunting, but it is important to remember that the majority of people have experienced this at some point, even at the highest level. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings surrounding criticism, taking a break from social media, and using positive affirmations for a strong foundation, you can start to build confidence in yourself and trust that your skill set will help you achieve success. With practice and dedication, managing this will become easier over time.