Do you have a feeling of fooling the world around you whether it be from a personal or professional point of view? Do you find it difficult to accept compliments? Perhaps you are subject to impostor syndrome! Although not considered as pathological, the impostor syndrome arouses much curiosity in psychology. Indeed, it affects a large majority of people who may have this experience at least once in their lives.
Table of contents
- What is the impostor syndrome?
- The birth of a vicious circle
- In personal life too
- What is its origin?
- Which personalities?
- How prevalent?
- What are the risks?
- What are the tricks to escape?
1. What is the impostor syndrome?
The impostor syndrome can also be called the self-taught syndrome. People with this syndrome tend to have constant doubts, bordering on the sickly, about their successes in the professional or personal world. Indeed, you think that your success is linked only to external elements, such as luck, environment and/or good coincidences.
That’s why you constantly feel like you’re defrauding or cheating the people around you. You see yourself as a person who spends his time fooling others. You think that your colleagues or your entourage will unmask you and that you will lose your credibility.
Thisexcessive self-deprecation of your abilities may be temporary or chronic. But it is not irreparable.
2. The birth of a vicious circle
This syndrome comes from a feeling of insecurity that is unwarranted.
Indeed, while you feel that you do not deserve your place. It seems to you that the intellectual level of others is always more important. In order to make up for any shortcomings or a possible intellectual lag, you get more involved in your work and put in a lot of effort. You have the approval of your superiors or professors whom you feel you have fooled.
Then, as you minimize your own skills, you go along with the ideas of others’ ideas. You are understanding, but don’t feel like you are really you, but rather that you are expected to be.
You play, unconsciously or not, of your charm to reach certain favors, or in any case, to be appreciated by your superior. This unconscious strategy aims to reassure you about your own abilities in order to leave this feeling of deceiving others. Instead, you tighten the mask you are wearing since it gives you, once again, the impression that you lied to your hierarchy and that this approval is due to your lying skills or to luck.
3. In personal life too
The impostor syndrome is not only related to professional life. It can also occur in our private sphere, especially in education and family life.
Indeed, a parent may underestimate his or her ability to manage the family environment, children, etc. Your partner may have too high an image of you as far as this management is concerned, which gives you the impression that you are also fooling your family.
4. What is its origin?
There is no single clear and precise explanation for this syndrome, but it often occurs when we compare ourselves to people we consider competent or even talented, especially during academic or professional transitions. There are also many children with parents who have successful careers.
Elders in a family tend to be more prone to this syndrome. They feel that their success is due to all the support they received from their parents.
Without being the eldest of a sibling, it is possible that there was parental pressure related to education. Too high expectations of professional or social success on the part of your parents can be the cause of this syndrome. Indeed, you may feel that you have always had to do better because you are not able to meet the expectations.
Conversely, low expectations in your childhood or a lack of attention makes you feel like you don’t belong in your society or university group.
Finally, certain populations that may be considered minorities are more likely to have impostor syndrome, such as women, LGBT+ people, foreigners, certain religious minorities, etc. Indeed, minorities face strong social pressures to prove their competence, yet often feel a lack of confidence. Stereotypes and limited thinking about differences can lead to low self-esteem, or at least doubts about our abilities..
5. Which personalities?
Even if there is not a typical profile of people suffering from the impostor syndrome, we find some frequent characteristics.
First, there is the lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. In fact, you do not believe in your skills, in your value and in your abilities and link them to an external chance that has been favorable to you. It does not seem possible to you that you could be capable of it, by your intellect or your physical skills.
There is, therefore, in these personalities, a perfectionist, or at least a great fear of failure (or the fear of an undeserved success). This is related to a great deal of over-investment. It is true that you have the feeling that your work is never good enough, that even if you have met the tasks or accomplished a difficult challenge. This can lead to significant psychological or physical fatigue.
You can also be subject to a great need for recognition, either by your entourage, or by your hierarchy or not your teachers. Yet you try to avoid being the center of attention in order to avoid the risk of failure.
Finally, you may have a tendency to have ruminative thoughts, wondering how it is possible to have had access to such and such a position, or to such a school. So you tend to devalue yourself and denigrate your skills.
6. How prevalent?
This syndrome is not rare. While it doesn’t always affect a lifetime, it is estimated that70% of people experience this feeling at least once during their academic or professional career.
This syndrome usually appears when we enter a new world related to some of our skills, for example at the time of our first job, at the time of a promotion, of a new university course etc.
This syndrome affects both women and men. Research tends to focus more on women, but it just seems that the impact and consequences are different between the two sexes. Women often end up trying to find help, while men, who in the professional world must leave a solid image, tend to turn to addictive behaviors.
7. What are the risks?
By dint of working hard to meet the demands, by dint of trying to achieve perfection so as not to show that you are an imposter, you are more likely to burn out.
As a result, the pursuit of perfectionism increases the feeling of incompetence, since the effort given is higher than what your colleagues can offer. Vou underestimate yourself, and spend a lot of time on each task, which sometimes forces you to procrastinate a lot.
A depression, an anxiety disorder or a strong pessimism towards one’s skills and life are noticed. Indeed, constant dissatisfaction, providing a lot of effort can lead to exhaustion and negative thoughts.
8. What are the tricks to escape?
It is always best to go see a professional (psychologist, therapist, sophrologist etc.) to help you in this malaise. A professional will help and guide you in a process of self-assertion, self-confidence and with whom you can work on your self-esteem. Work on guilt and detachment from the other’s gaze could also be put forward. However, you can always try these
little tips to free yourself from this syndrome to help you and move forward on your own. As this is not a pathology, you can have all the tools to get through it on your own :
a. Accept yourself as you are.
Regularly,work on letting go: Breathe, listen to relaxing music, letting in all the good vibes and becoming aware of your bodies and abilities. Be grateful for who you are.
b. Accept compliments.
Be grateful for what others may say to you, and learn not to see positive remarks as lies. Accept them, by thanking the person, or by smiling. To do this, reflect on what you have put in place to have had these results that are satisfactory, and see that it comes from you.
c. Be the center of attention.
Even though it may seem difficult, offer to make presentations of your work, the steps you have taken, and the expected and/or established results. In this way, you will be able to highlight what you have been able to do, but also, become aware of what you have been able to do thanks to your skills.
d. Create motivating slogans.
We can convince our brain of certain things. It is enough to repeat some sentences several times, with conviction, so that it ends up working, and let the naivety of our brain operate. Have short, punchy phrases in mind, such as “I am capable,” “I have the skills,” “I am the best at this,” “I am proud of myself,” that you repeat to yourself regularly. If you are visual, don’t hesitate to write them down so that you can read and reread them often and at will.
e. Estimate the value of others.
Your colleagues or peers may be better than you at some things, but don’t overestimate them. We all have our qualities and flaws, our skills and weaknesses, and learn to grow with them. Accept that you can learn from them, but also accept that you can teach them some things.
f. Create a “success chart”.
Listing the different situations in which you have had successes allows you to realize what you have been able to do. Make a table with 3 columns. In the first column, give a factual description of the situation (for example: I won a call for projects). In the second, your automatic thoughts about this success: to what do you attribute this success (for example: to luck). In the last one, reflect on the real factors of your success, with the skills you were able to put forward, your knowledge on the subject, the number of hours spent, the investment you showed etc.
g. Prove to yourselves who you are.
You are not an impostor, and yet you are convinced of it. Take a sheet of paper, make a diagram with a picture of yourself, or your first name in the middle, and write all around it, all your qualities (whether professional or personal) that could lead you to success (for example: benevolence, mathematics courses, quick learning etc.).
As you may have read, nearly 70% of people experience this syndrome one day or another. It is therefore time to dare to talk about it, and you will see that there is a great chance that other people around you will feel the same sensation. In this way, you will feel understood by your colleagues or your entourage, and they will try to adapt as best they can so that you can regain confidence in your skills.
In addition, during a conversation, you will be able to share your tips with other people who suffer from it, like you.