InsideOut’s psychotherapist Edu Hardy shares how ‘being kind to others fosters relationships, being kind to the world around you ensures respect and connection to your surrounding, being kind to yourself means you can succeed in doing both’.

The term impostor syndrome was first used in 1978 by Dr. Clance and Dr. Imes in their article “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”, to identify a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent inner fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

To experience Impostor Syndrome, is to feel that, despite external evidence of one’s competence, the prevailing conviction is that you do not deserve all that you’ve achieved. Luck is the most common attribute when thinking of the success gained, or then believing that one succeeded in tricking others into thinking one is more brilliant than one perceives. Both men and women experience impostor syndrome and while it can be linked to depression and other mental health problems, it isn’t in itself considered a mental health disorder.

The most common fears linked to the Impost Syndrome are: fear of evaluation, fear of not continuing success and fear of not being as capable as others. The most common responses are over-preparation and procrastination.

Even if the outcome results in a positive response, the feedback given has no effect on one’s perception of personal success, which leads one to discount any positive feedback.

Experiencing impostor syndrome is strongly related to the feeling of shame, and can lead to anxiety, depression, isolation, perfectionism, high levels of self-doubt and low sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It jeopardises one’s confidence and the feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment.

The feeling of being a fraud that surfaces in impostor phenomenon is not uncommon. It has been estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life.

Learning ways to cope with impostor syndrome can help you manage it’s negative effects be it on your performance, relationships and life.

Here are the top 10 tips on tackling Imposter Syndrome by the internationally-recognised expert and author Valerie Young, Ed.D.

  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.

  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.

  3. Recognise when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first of the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognise that it might be a normal response to being an outsider.

  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens.

  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on.

  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognise that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance.

  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tape that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.”

  8. Visualise success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress.

  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.

  10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build.

Identifying limiting beliefs, calling out the contradictions in the imposter way of thinking and reframing the way you see yourself, are key elements to stop thinking and feeling as an impostor.

There is no quick fix to overcoming Imposter Syndrome, so it is key to be kind to oneself through the process of gradually changing your mindset and perspective on yourself and your achievements and to recognise that, while you might still experience imposter moments, you needn’t live an imposter life.


Author: Sarah Speziali, Chief Therapist at InsideOut


References: Mind