Imposter Syndrome is a silent but pervasive phenomenon that affects people across all walks of life, from students to seasoned professionals. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re a fraud, that your accomplishments are merely a result of luck, and that one day, you’ll be exposed for not being as competent as others perceive you to be.
Let’s delve into the foundation of Imposter Syndrome, exploring why it exists, its root causes, and how to identify it in yourself or others.
Why Does Imposter Syndrome Exist?
Imposter Syndrome can be traced back to various psychological, societal, and individual factors. Here are some key reasons why it exists:
1. High Standards and Perfectionism
Many individuals set unrealistically high standards for themselves, often striving for perfection in their work and achievements. When they inevitably fall short of these lofty goals, they attribute their success to luck rather than recognizing their own abilities.
Perfectionism comes from the fear of judgment or disapproval from others. We worry about putting ourselves out there because of what others will think. Instead, we set extremely high standards for ourselves that are difficult to reach and maintain.
When we do this we are automatically setting ourselves up for failure and not even giving ourselves a chance. We defeat ourselves before we even begin.
2. Social Comparison & Imposter Syndrome
In today’s interconnected world, constant exposure to others’ accomplishments through social media and the internet can lead to unhealthy comparisons. When you see your peers succeeding, it’s easy to feel inadequate in comparison.
Consider setting aside social media and the influence it can have on you. We know this is very hard to do, as social media is such a big part of our life and society today.
If you can’t step away from social media then remember this – people post their best selves on social media. You only see the good, fun, and brightest highlights and moments of their lives. They aren’t putting out there the failures and setbacks that they experience.
Take what you see on social media with a grain of salt. Learn from it and use it to your advantage. Don’t use it to compare yourself to.
3. Fear of Failure
The fear of failing or making mistakes can trigger Imposter Syndrome. People with this mindset often see errors as personal flaws rather than opportunities for growth.
Set yourself up for success by outlining your goals. Once your goals are outlined, break down each goal into actionable steps to take in order to achieve your goals. These actionable steps are what you will focus on – one at a time. And break down those steps into smaller ones if needed.
As you start to take action and make progress with each step, you will build your own confidence and find that you’re successful. Through this process, and by creating smaller, achievable steps, you’ll push past the fear of failure.
4. Childhood Experiences
Early experiences, such as parental or societal expectations, can play a significant role in shaping an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth. Children who were consistently pushed to excel without recognizing their efforts may grow up feeling like impostors.
Take time for intentional living, mindfulness, and meditation. Through these practices you’ll be able to recognize if your childhood is having an effect on your current mental state. By being aware of your present self you’ll allow yourself to understand your emotions and the basis of where your emotions are coming from.
Root Causes of Imposter Syndrome
1. Attribution Error
Imposter Syndrome often involves an attribution error, where individuals attribute their successes to external factors like luck, help from others, or easy tasks, while attributing their failures to internal factors like lack of ability or intelligence.
It’s time that we start to adjust this way of thinking and be proud and aware of our successes. By setting goals and actionable steps as mentioned above, you’ll be able to recognize the hard work you put into in order to achieve your success.
Individuals with Imposter Syndrome frequently suffer from self-doubt. They question their competence and skills, believing that they lack the necessary qualifications or knowledge to excel in their roles.
Self-doubt stems from a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities. Take time to look back through your life on your achievements. When you do this, think of what you put towards the outcomes that resulted in your achievements. Recognize the role you played and take credit for it.
When you feel that you are making excuses or crediting luck, start back at the beginning again and re-review the scenario. Continue to start back at the beginning until you give yourself credit.
3. Discounting Success
Those with Imposter Syndrome tend to downplay their accomplishments, dismissing them as insignificant or attributing them to external factors. This leads to a persistent feeling of inadequacy.
As with self-doubt, take a moment to recognize your successes. Break down each one and find your importance within it. All of our actions bring results, even inaction does. Remove the external factors and look only at the facts of what your actions have accomplished.
4. Overemphasis on Criticism
Negative feedback or criticism weighs heavily on individuals with Imposter Syndrome, often overshadowing any positive feedback they receive. They may dwell on criticism and view it as confirmation of their inadequacy.
Receive criticism for only what it is given for. Don’t extend it to different scenarios or facets in your life. Each day, goal, vision, and dream is different from another. Move on from past criticisms with fresh eyes and new light to accomplish what is ahead.
Focusing on your mindset and shifting if needed from negative to positive may help through this process. You may need to focus on a growth mindset to reach goals, or a self-trust mindset to move past your self-doubt.
Mindset is how your thoughts shape how you feel about yourself and things. So by focusing on your mindset you can move past criticism and go after your desires.
How to Identify Imposter Syndrome
Identifying Imposter Syndrome is the first step toward overcoming it. Being aware of the root causes above will help you recognize when you are dealing with it.
Some common signs to look out for in yourself or others are:
- Minimizing achievements
- Fear of failure
Now that you’re able to recognize when you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, you can focus on overcoming it.
Remember that Imposter Syndrome is not a reflection of your abilities or worth; it’s a cognitive distortion that can be challenged and overcome with self-awareness, self-compassion, and support from others.
By acknowledging and addressing Imposter Syndrome, you can pave the way for a healthier, more confident, and fulfilling life.