Impostor Syndrome: Why You Feel Like An Impostor And How To Overcome It

What Is Impostor Syndrome?

impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is best described as the fear of being considered a fraud or doubting one’s accomplishments. Even those who have reached a level of success in their chosen field are often full of anxiety and crippling thoughts of being considered a fraud. According to the Journal of Behavioral Science, it is estimated that 70% of people in the U.S. experience impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome (IS) is an internal feeling that you believe you are not as qualified as other may think you are. This is often connected to thoughts of perfectionism and can be applied to your intelligence or achievement. If you have feelings of being a fraud or that you did not deserve that raise, then you could be dealing with impostor syndrome.

Four Characteristics of Impostor Syndrome

Those who suffer with impostor syndrome doubt their own skills and accomplishments despite the evidence of the success. Below are four common indicators you may be dealing with impostor syndrome.

  1. Deep-seated feelings of fear that you aren’t able to meet expectations.
  2. Undermining your achievements even when you worked diligently towards that goal.
  3. Setting unrealistic goals and then feeling disappointed if you do not meet those goals.
  4. Doubting yourself no matter what you’re working on or working towards.

If you recognize any of the above, there some things you can do to move past these feelings. Begin by confronting your feelings and any beliefs you hold about yourself. If you struggle with any of this, consider speaking with a professional or close friend. Confiding in someone can help you gain clarity on your feelings and beliefs.

Impostor syndrome can be ingrained in you as a child and continue well into adulthood. Struggling with feelings of being a fraud can happen to anyone but is seen mostly in successful women. According to research done with Psycnet.apa.org, “despite their outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

Do You Have Impostor Syndrome?

So, how do you know if you suffer from impostor syndrome? One way to know if you are dealing with it is to take a free online test. Simply answer the questions that you can find through a quick online search, or try the free test on at Psycom.net. 

You can remove impostor syndrome by first recognizing it in your life and seeing how it is affecting you. Progressively work towards breaking those limiting beliefs by thinking of the quality of work you are performing versus the quantity.

If someone pays you a compliment, remind yourself that it is a fact and that you deserve it. Begin to recognize your own successes and take time to celebrate the wins in your life. Eventually your inner voice will support your new positive thoughts so you can overcome the feelings of impostor syndrome.

Signs You Might Be Experiencing Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is defined as, “anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.” Now that you know what impostor syndrome is, how do you know if you are living with it?

impostor syndrome
Impostor Syndrome

Five Signs You Have Impostor Syndrome

Here are five common signs that you are living with impostor syndrome.

  1. You cannot assess your skills and abilities realistically because you are giving yourself unrealistic goals to accomplish.
  1. You connect your success to the outcome, giving no thought to the amount of work you put forth.
  1. You put down your own efforts and accomplishments by shrugging them off as if they were “not that good”.
  1. You live in constant fear of failing to meet your own expectations, but fail to acknowledge the goals you’ve reached.
  1. You engage in activities that self-sabotage potential success by choosing to deliberately procrastinate.

Many people with impostor syndrome look for ways to protect their ego and self-esteem when faced with tough situations. There are negative side effects to living with impostor syndrome, such as hindering your chance of success by choosing to create a barrier. Some individuals use their limiting beliefs, or feelings of impostor syndrome, for motivation.

External Proof versus Internal Thoughts

Impostor syndrome keeps you from internally accepting or believing your abilities or successes. The more you accomplish and succeed, the stronger the negative thoughts can become.

Do you struggle with thoughts or feelings of being a fraud in your career or at school? Have you reached a goal yet you don’t feel you did it well enough? These are examples of how individuals with impostor syndrome feel. Even though you accomplished the goal you set out to do, you can’t seem to internally believe it was good enough.

Internal feelings can increase the anxiety and could lead to intense feelings of being a fraud. This creates a vicious cycle and it may require the help of a psychologist or therapist to overcome this phenomenon. If the impostor syndrome is not correctly handled, it can lead to feelings of isolation or even feelings of dread.

Impostor syndrome is often passed down to a person from their family, unknowingly. It may not be evident until later in their teens or adulthood. Another potential cause may be from entering a new career field where you internally compare your skills to those who have been at the job longer than yourself. There could also be a number of external factors that could cause a person to be inflicted with impostor syndrome.

Once you realize you have impostor syndrome, you can take steps to overcome it. Some of these steps include sharing your feelings and fears with trusted individuals. Ask yourself if your thoughts are honest and rational. Assess whether you are comparing yourself to others without even realizing it. Keep in mind that successful people struggle with impostor syndrome and often relate their success to luck instead of hard work. Let your guard down and let others see you for who you really are.

Your Childhood May Have Contributed to Impostor Syndrome

Do you have repeated thoughts ‌you haven’t rightfully gained your job or an award? Do you fear being outed or exposed for not being as talented or enough in your career?

Impostor syndrome is a habitual thought pattern, according to PsychCentral, and may stem from your family background. Impostor syndrome can bring on feelings of chronic self-doubt and even a lack of celebration of their achievements.

Imposter syndrome can limit your belief in your abilities, talents, and even accomplishments. This can then lead to increased anxiety and low self-esteem. Many adults live with limiting beliefs because of their family upbringing and often do not know that this is even an issue until later in life.

Where Does Impostor Syndrome Come From?

Impostor syndrome can come from receiving praise or acknowledgment for something that you didn’t deserve, and this can directly influence your thoughts into causing feelings of being a phony. There may be a variety of reasons why you battle thoughts of feeling like a fraud or have the feeling of being an impostor in your life.

Impostor syndrome can hinder your self-esteem and even keep you from trying new activities in life. If you frequently battle feelings where you don’t deserve recognition for a job well done, then you could be living with it. It is reported that many individuals are known to have this syndrome without realizing it.

Five Reasons You May Battle Impostor Syndrome

impostor syndrome
Impostor Syndrome

There are five common reasons why you may be battling impostor syndrome, such as:

  1. You may have received praise or recognition for something that you did not deserve, such as a blue ribbon for a project when you know you did not do your best.
  1. You may have been praised for being good in a skill that you actually were not good at just so you would not be left out.
  1. You may have never received any type of positive reinforcement for a job well done even though you worked to your best ability.
  1. You may not feel deserving of something of value because you were told you were not good enough or should have done better regardless of how much effort you put forth.
  1. Did your family assign you a label such as “the sporty one” or “the smart one” without recognizing other areas you excelled at?

These labels or ingrained life lessons could cause you to grow into an adult that suffers from impostor syndrome.

Once you can relate to one or more of these life experiences, you can ‌change your own life. For example, if they labeled you the “smart one” of your family, then you could begin by recognizing a job well done in another area of your life. Perhaps trying out for a sports team or taking part in a community event can be the beginning of self-recognition and the shedding of your impostor syndrome feelings.

Take time to recognize your own achievements, as this can build your self-esteem and help you shed that ‌label.

Are Your Fears Holding You Back?

Fear is an emotion that can hold you back from reaching your goals and levels of success in your career – or even in school. Taking risks is part of everyday life but can be hindered if you are fearful of the unknown. How often do you say no to something just because you are fearful of what you think could happen?

Five Types of Fear

The top five fears that may be holding you back could include the following:

  1. Feeling inadequate – Do you fear you are not good enough or lack the skills to pursue your dreams? You can overcome this fear by knowing and understanding your importance in a particular area of your life.
  1. The unknown – Do you have the common fear of the unknown? You can overcome this fear by having a vision for yourself and your future.
  1. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out is when you wish you were doing what others are doing because it looks better than what you’re doing. This type of fear is a distraction that can keep you from forming real relationships.
  1. Change – Fear of change can steal your joy and peace. To overcome this fear, take time to enjoy the moment you are in. Doing this can help you appreciate your life and relationships in a deeper manner.
  1. Being judged – No one wants to be judged by others and being vulnerable opens you up for the possibility of being judged. Adam Kirk Smith, Author of “The Bravest You” says “embrace your personal story” to overcome this fear.

Fear can be crippling and can hold you back from your true potential. Though you may never live a completely fear-free life, there are ways you can overcome the fears in your life.

It’s important to be open and honest with your fears too. You could even journal those fears so you can write down the ways to overcome them. The majority of fear comes from the unknown or even the thought of taking a risk. No one wants to be judged so it comes naturally to stay away from these types of situations. Lack of self-esteem or self-confidence can be an underlying cause of such fears.

Read Also: How To Be Happy About Your Life And Be Contented

Overcome Your Fears

Begin by establishing a purpose for taking a risk; doing so this can remove that fear. Knowing your purpose will help you overcome many fears in your life. Purpose and meaning in life can help you move past your fears and guide you along your life’s journey.

Consider using positive affirmations when you are faced with a fear. Knowing where you are and what you want can help move you from a state of fear to a position of success.

Finally, understand that not all fear is negative. Some fear can save your life and help you through a life-or-death situation. According to PsychologyToday.com “Real fear can save our lives, embrace it. Manufactured fear divides us, let it go. And, be sure to give fear the attention it needs so you can distinguish between the two.”

Read Also: Overcoming Fear: 8 Ways To Conquer Fear

Success Is Not Luck, It’s You!

Do you have feelings or worries that your co-workers or friends will think you’re a fraud? Do you often feel like you don’t belong? These are feelings of impostor syndrome and an estimated 70% of successful people experience this in their lives.

Impostor syndrome can cause you to feel that you only accomplished your goals due to luck. Maybe you think you aren’t as good as your boss thinks you are and you worry that you’ll be found out.

Research shows us that both men and women battle impostor syndrome and are unable to acknowledge and own their successes.

Five Patterns of Impostor Syndrome

According to the impostor expert Valerie Young and author of “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women”, there are five patterns that can be found in those who suffer from this phenomenon.

  1. You set unrealistic goals for yourself and are often considered a perfectionist.
  2. You are afraid to speak up or answer questions due to fear of not knowing the answer.
  3. You are afraid to ask for help because you think you’ll look like a failure to others.
  4. You feel like a fraud if the answer doesn’t come naturally.
  5. You push yourself hard than your peers in order to prove yourself.

Individuals that live with impostor syndrome think that things happen to them due to luck rather than their own hard work or abilities. This then leads to a cycle of negative thinking that can hold them back from moving up the corporate ladder. They may even end up working harder than necessary, which could lead to increased feelings of failure or burnout.

How To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

If you are living with impostor syndrome you may struggle with accepting your own success. Perhaps you feel that you don’t deserve your corporate position or an award of accomplishment. If you can relate to this, then there are some suggestions on how you can fix your inner impostor.

  1. Change your mindset to accept your shortcomings instead of seeking a perfect outcome with every project or goal.
  1. Embrace your imperfections and learn to accept yourself the way you are. Remind yourself that you did your best.
  1. Keep a list of realistic goals. If you have a list of goals already then look through them with honesty.
  1. Believe the effort you’ve put forth regardless of the outcome. You may have worked hard towards a goal just to fall short of the desired outcome. This is an opportunity to accept the outcome and still be proud of the work you put into it.
  1. Create a focused goal instead of trying to divide your attention energy between unrelated topics. Be okay with having someone else work on a particular area of a task so you are free to focus on what you enjoy.

Conclusion On Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome can cause the strongest and most successful individuals to feel like they are not good enough. This syndrome has a negative effect on all areas of your life. So take time to assess where you are and what you can do to move forward in your life.

An Harvard Business Review article on Impostor syndrome says we should stop telling women they have Imposter Syndrome and I absolutely agree.

Learn to do away with feeling like a impostor and get rid of that impostor syndrome. Dear queen, your successes are valid. Those awards are valid. You are intelligent and deserve everything you have achieved.

It wasn’t luck. It was all you.

Keep winning!

impostor syndrome
Impostor Syndrome

Kinging Queen

Jennifer Pompaski
Jennifer Pompaski

Hi, my name is Jennifer. I am an Engineer by day and a blogger 24/7. I am passionate about Self Improvement & Productivity and this blog is dedicated to that passion! I hope you find it worthwhile each time you visit! If you do find anything helpful on here, kindly share because sharing is caring!

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