Imposter Syndrome Explained: How To Overcome Feeling Like One Big Fraud

imposter syndrome man wearing mask
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Impostor syndrome is a psychological condition in which high-achieving individuals feel like their successes are undeserved. As such, these folx are often unable to accept their accomplishments lest they be exposed as “frauds.”

People who suffer from imposter syndrome, otherwise known as the imposter phenomenon, feel as though it’s a matter of time before someone exposes them as failures.

The impostor phenomenon was first identified in 1978 when two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, wrote a study about it. Their findings were further publicized in the bestselling book, “The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success.”

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome isn’t technically a mental illness or disorder, but rather a psychological phenomenon that often occurs among high achievers.

That said, feeling like a fraud isn’t something anyone should have to live with as this can cause stress, anxiety, and depression on a very real level (as opposed to imposter syndrome, which is driven by fear and self-doubt).

How To Recognize the Signs of Imposter Syndrome

The impostor phenomenon doesn’t discriminate; anyone can fall prey to it. But studies have found that it’s especially prevalent among high-achieving women.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of impostor syndrome:

  • Believing that you don’t deserve your success.
  • Feeling like other people have gotten where they are through connections or cheating.
  • Believing that the praise and admiration you receive only means that others have been fooled.
  • Being convinced that any success you achieve is attributable to luck or other external factors.
  • Thinking about all the things that could go wrong and fearing that others will find out you’re not as capable as they think.

What Others Are Saying About Imposter Syndrome

“People with impostor syndrome tend to discount their abilities and achievements, focusing instead on the things they believe they can’t do or have done wrong,” said Carrie Barron, a psychiatrist at Columbia University. “This gives them an aura of being not quite top-level, even though they may have all the factual evidence to prove otherwise.”

In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, social researcher and TV personality Meredith Bagby explained that impostor syndrome is a “subconscious bias that we all have” and “a filter through which we see the world.”

In other words, imposter syndrome is a buzzkill.

woman standing confidently self esteem

5 Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

If you’ve been feeling like a fraud for too long, it can be tough to know how to start shifting away from this mindset.

This is why I’ve put together five pieces of advice that can help:

1. Realize That This Is Just Your Mind Working Against You

Blaming anything and everything on luck doesn’t solve the issue. The reality is that you’re responsible for your own success and happiness, not luck, circumstance, or other people.

2. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People

Find a community or network of positive individuals who will support you during times when you feel like a fraud. This can help boost your confidence as well as provide you with a vital support system. But make sure you stay away from echo chambers.

3. Remember That Everyone Knows What It’s Like to Feel Inadequate

Everyone has experienced periods where they’ve felt like a failure. The key is not letting those feelings stop you from pursuing your goals and dreams.

4. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

There will always be someone who’s allegedly smarter, more talented, and more accomplished than you. So what? Measuring yourself against them is a race you’ll never win.

5. Examine the Evidence

When you feel like a fraud, it’s easy to remember all of your past mistakes and failures, but much harder to focus on past successes. So try taking an inventory of your accomplishments, for once.

Why Self-Esteem Matters and How It Can Help With Imposter Syndrome 

The imposter phenomenon can have a significant impact on your self-esteem. This is because impostor syndrome causes you to constantly compare yourself to others, which makes it more difficult for you to appreciate your own strengths and achievements.

This is why developing greater self-esteem can help with imposter syndrome in a number of ways:

  • It helps you recognize and build your self-confidence.
  • It encourages you to value and embrace your abilities, even if they’re different from those around you.
  • It helps you carry out realistic evaluations of your strengths and weaknesses without feeling like a failure.

The Bottom Line on Imposter Syndrome

Feeling like a fraud isn’t just stressful, it can also affect your performance. When you’re constantly worried that someone will discover “the truth” and expose you as an impostor, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

This is why overcoming imposter syndrome is such a vital step toward improving your mental health. It takes practice but with enough patience, determination, and support, you’ll soon discover that impostor syndrome is just one big fraud unto itself.

For more ways to improve your mental health, check out the QWERTYdelight Archives.

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