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Imposter Syndrome: Everything You Need to Know

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Have you ever thought, “I don’t deserve this job position”, or “I have no idea what I’m doing. Is someone going to call me out for being a fraud?” That could be imposter syndrome talking.

If you do, you are not alone in these thoughts. Many professionals have dealt with these feelings of uncertainty. According to research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, which asked college students if they felt imposter syndrome, 82 percent of psychology students reported feeling imposter syndrome to some degree. 

We will walk you through everything you need to know: 

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a form of self-doubt, a mental pattern of believing you are not good enough to have achieved all that you have achieved. Although it is not characterized as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -a publication by the American Psychiatric Association classifying mental disorders- it is a real, valid, and widely recognized feeling. 

A major component of imposter syndrome is experiencing doubt despite their accomplishments. There is a disconnect between your success and how you are genuinely feeling. 

Imposter syndrome comes with the fear that someone is going to find out you are not truly capable or intelligent enough to do all that you have done. Here are some of the common signs you may see in yourself if you are experiencing imposter syndrome: 

  • Trouble accepting praise 
  • Overachievement 
  • Feeling like a fraud
  • Fearful others will see you as a fraud
  • Anxious or depressive feelings
  • Self-sabotaging your success 
  • Feeling unworthy of success
  • Guilt
  • Burnout

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is not one size fits all. There are different subtypes -developed by Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome- which help narrow down the exact feelings you may be struggling with. Here are the 5 that are widely recognized: 

1. The “Perfectionist”: You feel as though something is not worth doing if it’s not done 100 percent correctly. Any tiny mistake can make you feel like a complete failure, unworthy of how far you have gotten so far. 

2. The “Superperson”: You take over a plethora of different roles, overexerting yourself as you try to be the best in everything you do. You set yourself up for burnout as you are trying to do everything at once, you link your worth to fulfilling all the roles. 

3. The “Expert”: You have the need to learn everything possible and are disappointed when you don’t have the answer to something. You may find yourself constantly wanting to further your knowledge. You want all of the answers. 

4. The “Natural Genius”: You expect everything to come easily to you, you may feel failure when something takes extra effort or time to learn. You feel like intelligence should be natural so when you struggle, you feel like a fraud. 

5. The “Soloist”:  You struggle to reach out for help as it may make you feel like you’re a failure. If you do not complete a task completely on your own, you may feel like you do not deserve the credit for the work. 

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

There is not one all encompassing cause for imposter syndrome. Anyone at any point in their career can experience it. Currently, there are multiple theories circulating about the causes of imposter syndrome.

One of the most common theories attributes imposter syndrome to family dynamics. According to research in the psychotherapy field by Langford and Clance, imposter syndrome may begin when dealing with a family that has high levels of conflict and offers little support to the child. 

Another theory is imposter syndrome stems from the company culture. Certain work environments stress the importance of perfection and peak productivity. These types of workplaces can lead workers to feel inadequate in their position and may lead to imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome also may be caused from internal factors such as personality traits. Some people are inherently perfectionists or hold themselves to high standards; thus, they are more likely to deal with imposter syndrome.  

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

No matter which type of imposter syndrome you have, overcoming it is not an easy process. You have to be ready to confront your feelings head-on. The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is identifying the signs and recognizing you may be suffering from it

Be open to sharing: Rachel Lounds, an imposter syndrome specialist and mindset coach, advises people experiencing imposter syndrome to “identify and share your feelings.” 

“With it being so common, you are not alone,” Lounds said. “Sharing how you are feeling can be tremendously freeing and releases the feeling of being overwhelmed.” Sharing is productive, but make sure you are not ruminating on your feelings. Lounds emphasizes, “You have to decide to act and change it!”

Isolating yourself is one of the worst things you can do.

Hone in on your accomplishments: Assess your abilities in a logical manner. Write down what you think comes easiest to you, what you have accomplished professionally, and where you think you have room to improve. This will help you realize there are areas where you are genuinely worthy of success compared to some of the weaker skills that you are still developing. 

Consider talking to a therapist: As mentioned, imposter syndrome may be accompanied by anxiety and depression. Therapists can give you the tools you need to deal with your feelings of inadequacy and any related mental health issues. 

You are more than enough. Sitting in these feelings can stifle your growth and potential. And you can overcome it.

Learn More About Imposter Syndrome: Want to know more about how you can manage imposter syndrome? Take the Ashurst You Are Extraordinary Virtual Experience Program,  which is an in-depth opportunity to learn even more about imposter syndrome and tools you can use to deal with it!

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