What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome, perceived fraudulence, or impostor experience) describes high-achieving individuals who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or impostor*. People with impostor syndrome struggle with accurately attributing their performance to their actual competence (i.e., they attribute successes to external factors such as luck or receiving help from others and attribute setbacks as evidence of their professional inadequacy). IT was originally identified among high-achieving professional women, but more recent research has documented these feelings of inadequacy among men and women, in many professional settings, and among multiple ethnic and racial groups*.
Are you experiencing Impostor Syndrome?
These are the 5 most common types of Impostor Syndrome. If you can identify yourself in any of the situations below, then you are probably experiencing Impostor Syndrome.
1. The Perfectionist 👌
• Extremely high expectations
Thinks: "Even if 99% of a goal is achieved, I still feel like a failure"
2. The Expert ℹ️
• Needs to know every single piece of information before doing something, or else they feel incompetent.
Thinks: "I am afraid to ask questions and look stupid"
3. The Natural Genius 😎
• Believes that if they have to struggle to learn something, it's proof they are not good enough.
Thinks: "I restrict myself to skills that only come easily"
4. The Soloist 👩💻
• Thinks they need to accomplish everything on their own
Thinks: "I never ask for help because I equate it to weakness"
5. The Superhero🦸♀️
• Pushes themselves to work harder than everybody else to prove they are not a fraud.
Thinks: "I feel the need to excel at everything in life"*
Some Impostor Syndrome Hacks
1. Focus on the facts 🔎
List your achievements and objectively assess the skills, capabilities, and qualities that helped you succeed thus far. Allow yourself to take credit for your accomplishments
2. Challenge limiting beliefs 🌍
Examine your deep-seated beliefs about the criteria for success. Then look for facts or examples to test whether these criteria are actually valid, and how they might hold you back. Recognize the valuable perspective you’ve gained from personal hardships
3. Claim your strength 💪
Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, embrace your assets and reflect on how to leverage them more fully. Advocate for yourself and own your strengths
4. Talk about it 🗣
Share your feelings with trusted friends, colleagues, or an executive coach to put them in perspective and help you reinforce the positive changes you are making. Then, move on.
What do you think? Is Impostor Syndrome real or a fad of our times?
Author: Maria Chardakis
* Kolligian J, Jr, Sternberg RJ. Perceived fraudulence in young adults: is there an "imposter syndrome"? J Pers Assess. 1991;56(2):308–26
* Hawley K. Feeling a Fraud? It’s not your fault! We can all work together against Imposter Syndrome [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2019 April 16]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/trust/201607/feeling-fraud-its-not-your-fault.
* Young, Valerie. The Secret Thoughts Of Successful Women. 21st ed., Crown Business, 2013.