Are you someone who feels like they don’t deserve their success, despite being well-qualified and competent? Do you fear being exposed as a fraud or impostor? If yes, then you might be experiencing the Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. We spoke to host of The Confidence Clinic podcast, Dr Jane Leonard to understand exactly what Imposter Syndrome is, its causes, symptoms, and provide tips on how to overcome it.
Imposter Syndrome and Women: Understanding the Gender Gap
Imposter Syndrome is a common experience among individuals, regardless of gender, race, or profession. However, research shows that women are more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome than men. Indeed, research shows it is a women’s issue that is most prevalent amongst women in high-ranking positions.
A recent KPMG study found that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers, which is a feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that makes them continuously doubt if they are qualified enough for the job. And 74% of female execs believe that their male counterparts do not experience feelings of self-doubt as much as female leaders do.
What is imposter syndrome?
“Imposter syndrome is an inability or persistent inability to believe that your success is not deserved or legitimate, despite your own efforts and skills,” says Dr Jane.
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Even when they have earned their accomplishments through hard work and experience, they feel like they do not deserve it. They attribute their success to luck, timing, or the help of others. Perceived fraudulence can occur in people of any gender, race, or profession, but it is more prevalent among high achievers.
What does imposter syndrome feel like?
Dr Jane says: “Imposter syndrome is when you experience extreme feelings of self doubt and it might be because even though you have got the education, experience and accomplishments, you can’t fix it and you feel incompetent. Clearly, if you’re from a high achieving family or you have a lot of pressure applied to you at school, that could affect you more. It also comes down to specific individual personality traits, such as perfectionism.”
Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
Common symptoms include:
- Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy
- Fear of failure and making mistakes
- Belief that success is due to external factors and not personal abilities
- Difficulty accepting compliments or praise
- Overworking and perfectionism
- Avoiding challenges or opportunities that may lead to failure
Are there different types of imposter syndrome?
According to Dr. Valerie Jung (co-founder of The Imposter Syndrome Institute), there are 5 kinds of imposter syndrome. One is a perfectionist, second is the natural genius, third is a rugged individualist, four is the expert and finally, the superhero.
Is imposter syndrome a mental illness?
“Imposter Syndrome isn’t actually a mental health condition by definition,” says Dr Jane. “It has however been associated with ADHD and that’s because people who suffer from ADHD often feel like imposters in their own self. And this is because they often hide or cover up a lot of their feelings.
“A lot of the symptoms of ADHD can be masks in general life and this will add to the feeling of being a fraud or an imposter if you’re in a situation where you’re experiencing depression.”
The Causes of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome may not be considered a mental disorder, but is a psychological pattern that can result from various factors, such as:
People with perceived fraudulence often hold themselves to high standards of perfectionism. They set unrealistic goals and believe that any mistake or failure makes them a fraud.
Upbringing and Culture
Upbringing and culture can also contribute. In some cultures, humility and modesty are valued more than self-promotion, leading individuals to downplay their accomplishments.
People with certain personality traits, such as introversion or neuroticism, may be more susceptible.
Highly competitive work environments, where everyone seems to be overachieving, can also contribute.
The Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome can manifest in various ways, but the most common symptoms are:
People with Imposter Syndrome doubt their abilities, knowledge, and expertise, even when they have evidence to the contrary.
Fear of Failure
People with perceived fraudulence have a persistent fear of failure and the consequences it may have on their reputation.
Individuals with Imposter Syndrome often downplay their achievements, attributing them to external factors such as luck or help from others.
People with perceived fraudulence often overwork and push themselves to exhaustion to prove their worth.
How do we overcome imposter syndrome?
Dr Jane says: “The best way to overcome the feelings of impostor syndrome is to share your feelings with someone and try and celebrate your small successes every single day. It’s about trying to let go of that perfectionism. Be kind to yourself, cultivate your passions and embrace the feeling of being accepted.”
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Perceived fraudulence can be challenging to overcome, but it is possible with the right mindset and strategies. Here are some tips that can help you overcome feeling like a fraud:
Recognise Your Accomplishments
It is essential to recognize your accomplishments and take credit for them. Keep a record of your achievements and reflect on how you earned them.
Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. When you start doubting your abilities, remind yourself of your accomplishments and skills.
Share Your Feelings
Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor can help you gain perspective and support.
Set Realistic Goals
Set realistic goals that challenge you but are achievable. Break down large tasks into smaller ones and focus on one step at a time.
Embrace failure as a learning opportunity rather than a reflection of your worth. No one is perfect, and mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.