How Do You Move on From the Doubts of Imposter Syndrome?

Illustration of a goldfish swimming at the water's surface with a shark fin strapped to it.

Someone experiencing imposter syndrome has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.' (Image: Alphaspirit via Dreamstime)

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern of thoughts in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Being caught between the desire to flourish and the fear of achieving success can be painful and overwhelming. Moreover, that fear may indicate specific worries, such as fear of responsibility, making mistakes, or an identity shift.

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Originally called the imposter phenomenon, the term “imposter syndrome” was first coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes and described the psychological pattern exhibited when someone has a deep-seated sense that their achievements are not real.

According to Psychology Today, research suggests that imposter syndrome affects around 25 to 30 percent of high achievers. In addition, approximately 70 percent of adults may experience imposterism at least once in their lifetime.

It’s an experience that occurs in an individual and is not a mental disorder. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or area of expertise. Initially, it was thought to apply primarily to high-achieving women, but it is more widely recognized today. Those with imposter syndrome experience a chronic sense of inadequacy, which is an experience shared by women and men.

Group of coworkers having a project meeting.
Imposter syndrome can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or area of expertise. (Image: jacoblund via Envato Elements)

So where are you on the scale?

Psychology Compass has produced a useful test to download and score your results. According to the site: “At its worst, the symptoms of imposter syndrome can be pretty distressing. Dysfunctional thoughts can impact your ability to do your job. You may find doubt in your ability to perform, wondering if you can make the right decisions, questioning whether or not you are capable of overcoming the obstacles that come your way.”

In February 2021, Verywell Mind published What Is Imposter Syndrome? Common signs of this syndrome include:

  • Self-doubt
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Berating your performance
  • Sabotaging your success

The thought process is: If you do well, it must be because of luck because you are too socially incompetent to achieve anything.

According to PsichologyAnswers.com: “Imposter syndrome is likely the result of multiple factors, including personality traits such as perfectionism and family background. One theory is that imposter syndrome is rooted in families that value achievement above all else.”

Imposter syndrome could be the result of multiple factors, including personality traits and family background.
Imposter syndrome could be the result of multiple factors, including personality traits and family background. (Image: Airdone via Dreamstime)

How to deal with imposter syndrome

Admit it

If you have the typical tendencies of this syndrome, accept them for what they are. “Many people with imposter syndrome tend not to mention how they feel because they will be exposed as a fraud if they do.”

Avoid trying to be perfect

This is the advice given by CEO Today Magazine, since many people affected by imposter syndrome may also exhibit perfectionist tendencies and experts view these two as connected. Instead, try reminding yourself that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect.

Accept your success and own it

“If you have imposter syndrome, there’s a good chance you’ll happily blame yourself when things go wrong. But when something you do goes well, you may find it difficult in taking the credit.” Take responsibility for the good, as well as the bad.

Learning to tolerate discomfort and accept imperfection can help overcome the fears that prevent people from striving for success.

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