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Are You Suffering From Imposter Syndrome?

If you are wondering what in the world Imposter Syndrome is, you are not alone. I had heard about it a few months back in a class I was taking and needed to know more. After doing some research and now figuring out what it is, I of course had to share it with all of you. The crazy thing is, I think we all suffer from some form of it but we don't have to forever. Let me explain exactly what it is and then how we can maneuver around it.

Imposter syndrome is actually not a new concept. Psychologists Pauline Rose and Suzanne Imes defined the term in 1978. To sum up what they reported, it is when someone doubts their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. Acknowledging their success is nearly impossible. In fact many times the person believes things such as luck got them where they are. So many accomplished and successful people feel this way. This kind of thinking can lead to toxic careers and relationships because their beliefs are so strong that they can't possibly be worthy of success. That's why I think it's important to understand what this is and then figure out how to move past it or be able to recognize it if it comes up later in life.

Imposter syndrome has five types: perfectionist, expert, natural genius, soloists, and superman/superwoman. I'm going to do a quick explanation of each one and give you some ideas on how to combat them.

The Perfectionist: The perfectionist sets unreasonable expectations and then beats themselves up if the outcome is slightly different. They feel like failures if the end result isn't perfect. This kind of thinking ends up leading to the person not starting a project at all because everything has to be just right in order to start, and we all know there is no perfect time for anything. This person will always think their work falls short. Saying things like " this outcome is okay but it could be better" is what gets in the way. Then in return the person feels not qualified and feels like a fraud.

Here are some ways to help get you out of these very limiting beliefs:

  • Recognize these stories for what they are. They are feelings and those feelings, many times, are NOT facts. Start asking yourself do these beliefs help me? Recognizing these limiting beliefs is the first step to overriding the thinking. Write down the things you are good at to prove those thoughts wrong. Read them everyday!

  • Acknowledge that completing something is an accomplishment and that it is worth celebrating. Take that win no matter how big or small and treat yourself to something. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant but just something you wouldn't normally do so your mind-body connection starts to catch up.

  • Recognize that MOST people have similar struggles and it's not just you feeling this way.

The Expert: The expert will not apply for a job unless they have 100% of the requirements listed. Their biggest fear is that someone one day will ask them a question and they won't know the answer which then will expose them as a fraud. But they aren't a fraud. No one can possibly know everything. They want to be the expert in their chosen field. They won't start a project unless they know everything. This can also lead to procrastination.

Here are some ways to help get you out of these very limiting beliefs:

  • Consider that people are generally good and are not here to prove you don't know everything. They talk to you for your opinion and are not putting you up on some unrealistic pedestal.

  • Do your best to never compare yourself to other experts. This will never work out in your favor. Everyone is different with different strengths and weaknesses. Comparison is never helpful.

  • Everyone has moments of self doubt, even experts. Learning how to work through that doubt will lead to more experience and confidence.

The Natural Genius: The natural genius is someone who has had skills come extremely easy to them but then are left feeling like a failure and confused when something eventually seems difficult and they can't master it on their first try. They have feelings of shame if something takes too long to accomplish or learn. This eventually can lead to feeling like a fraud. They have the mentality of I'm not understanding this so I'm clearly not made for it.

Here are some ways to help get you out of these very limiting beliefs:

  • Realize that it takes time to understand most things fully. This does NOT make you a fraud! Taking more time to immerse yourself in areas is actually a good thing. You will appreciate and remember so much from taking your time and it's actually normal to learn things in smaller chunks.

  • Write down positive affirmations to override the negative self talk. For example, I don't know what I'm doing OR I trust myself to do my best and when the time is right I will take in the new information. Put your affirmations where you will see them every day, such as on your bathroom mirror or on your phone to glance at multiple times a day.

  • Realize it takes time to change your beliefs. You have most likely had these limiting thoughts for years so it is going to take a lot of time and work to change that self talk.

The Soloist: The soloist believes that if they can't do something independently then they are a failure. They would rather not try than ask for help because that is admitting defeat. They believe that if they asked for help they must not be good at the topic/task. Of course logically we all know that asking for help is natural and another way we learn but the soloist ends up feeling like an imposter.

Here are some ways to help get you out of these very limiting beliefs:

  • Recognize that the people that are producing the most work have teams they work with. We do not need to be doing all the tasks and work by ourselves. Most producers rarely work in isolation.

  • Try and learn how to delegate. It of course will feel foreign at first but the more you can trust in the people around you the more free time you will have to think of your next genius idea.

  • Learn to except help as a good thing.

The Superman/Superwoman: The superman/superwoman is someone who has become a workaholic and overachiever. These are people who often have many insecurities and rather than dealing with them they cover them up by being the best at what they do. External validation is very important to them and when they aren't working they have a feeling of falling behind. They believe that if they were 'legit' that they would be succeeding in everything. Putting on different hats throughout your day and excelling at them all is too much pressure to put on yourself.

Here are some ways to help get you out of these very limiting beliefs:

  • You have nothing to prove to anyone. Learning how to be enough for yourself is all that matters. The external validation is short lived. You are with yourself all day every day.

  • You don't have to fill all the roles throughout your day. Freeing up some time and taking care of yourself will fill your cup.

After reading all the types of Imposter Syndrome I'm sure you can see yourself in at least one category. I know I have had many moments where I could probably fit in all five types. It is so important to realize that these beliefs most likely came about during childhood and early adolescence and, therefore, they have been with you for longer than you remember. Some of us had parents with extremely high expectations or it simply came about during a new role or phase in life such as starting a new job. The point is, learning how to listen to ourselves talk and recognizing that many of those thoughts are just simply not real can truly help. Becoming more conscious and stopping those negative thoughts in their tracks and then replacing them with a good one is how to break the endless cycle. Start imagining a life free of fear. Free of unrealistic expectations. I don't know about you but that view looks very peaceful and exactly where I want to be.

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