Overcoming imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe the feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt that many people experience, despite evidence of their competence and accomplishments. It is a common psychological phenomenon that can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of their profession or personal circumstances.
Imposter syndrome can manifest in a variety of ways, and there are several different types of imposter syndrome that people may experience. In this article, we will explore the five most common types of imposter syndrome, and offer practical tips for overcoming them.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome was first identified by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s. They defined it as "a feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement."
Imposter syndrome can be characterised by feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and the fear of being exposed as a fraud. People with imposter syndrome often feel like they are not good enough, even if they have achieved significant success in their careers or personal lives.
How does imposter syndrome affect people?
People with imposter syndrome may be reluctant to take on new challenges or responsibilities, for fear of being exposed as a fraud. They may also struggle to accept praise or recognition for their achievements, as they feel like they don't deserve it.
Why do people experience imposter syndrome?
There are many different factors that can contribute to the development of imposter syndrome. Some of the most common causes include:
Perfectionism: People who have high standards for themselves may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome. They may feel like they are never good enough, and that any mistakes or failures are a sign of their incompetence.
Comparison:People who compare themselves to others may also be more prone to imposter syndrome. They may feel like they are not as good as their peers, even if they have achieved similar levels of success.
Childhood experiences: Some people may develop imposter syndrome as a result of experiences they had in childhood. For example, if they were told they weren't good enough or were constantly compared to others, they may internalise those messages and believe that they are not capable.
Cultural factors: Certain cultures may be more prone to imposter syndrome than others. For example, in the UK, research has found that women are more likely to experience imposter syndrome than men. This may be due to cultural expectations around gender roles and achievement.
Who does imposter syndrome affect?
Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or background. However, research has found that certain groups may be more prone to experiencing it than others.
For example, a study conducted by the International Journal of Behavioural Science found that around 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. This figure was higher among women, people of colour, and those with higher levels of education.
5 types of imposter syndrome
Now that we have a better understanding of what imposter syndrome is, let's take a closer look at the five types of imposter syndrome and how they can be overcome.
People who experience the expert type of imposter syndrome feel like they are never knowledgeable or experienced enough, despite evidence to the contrary. They may constantly seek out new information and qualifications, and may also struggle to accept praise or recognition for their expertise.
Tips for overcoming the expert type of imposter syndrome
Recognise your expertise:Take some time to reflect on your achievements and the skills and knowledge that you have gained throughout your career. Write down a list of your accomplishments, and remind yourself of the times when you have received positive feedback from others.
Challenge negative self-talk: People with the expert type of imposter syndrome may have a tendency to focus on their shortcomings and downplay their achievements. Whenever you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, challenge those thoughts and replace them with more positive, affirming statements.
Seek support: Don't be afraid to seek support from others, whether that's from colleagues, mentors, or a therapist. Talking to someone who understands what you're going through can help you feel less alone, and may also provide you with valuable insights and advice.
The superwoman/man type of imposter syndrome is characterised by a constant need to prove oneself, often at the expense of one's health and well-being. People with this type of imposter syndrome may feel like they have to excel in every area of their lives, from their careers to their personal relationships.
Tips for overcoming the superwoman/man type of imposter syndrome:
Set realistic expectations: It's important to set realistic expectations for yourself and to recognise that you can't excel in every area of your life all the time. Identify your priorities and focus on those areas that are most important to you.
Practice self-care: Self-care is essential for everyone, but it's especially important for people with the superwoman/man type of imposter syndrome. Take time out of your busy schedule to do things that you enjoy, whether that's reading a book, taking a walk, or spending time with friends.
Learn to say no: People with the superwoman/man type of imposter syndrome may have a hard time saying no to others, even when it's not in their best interests. Practice setting boundaries and saying no when you need to, without feeling guilty or ashamed.
People who experience the perfectionist type of imposter syndrome may feel like they have to be perfect all the time, in every aspect of their lives. They may have an intense fear of failure and may be highly critical of themselves when they don't meet their own impossibly high standards.
Tips for overcoming the perfectionist type of imposter syndrome:
Accept imperfection: It's important to recognise that no one is perfect and that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Practice self-compassion and learn to accept your imperfections as a normal part of being human.
Focus on progress, not perfection: Rather than striving for perfection, focus on making progress towards your goals. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and use setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Challenge all-or-nothing thinking: People with the perfectionist type of imposter syndrome may have a tendency to engage in all-or-nothing thinking, where they see things in black-and-white terms. Challenge this type of thinking by looking for shades of grey and adopting a more nuanced perspective.
The soloist type of imposter syndrome is characterised by a reluctance to ask for help or support from others. People with this type of imposter syndrome may feel like they have to do everything on their own, and may be hesitant to collaborate with others or delegate tasks.
Tips for overcoming the soloist type of imposter syndrome:
Recognise the value of collaboration: Collaboration can be a powerful tool for achieving success, whether in your personal or professional life. Practice reaching out to others for support and seeking out opportunities to work with others towards shared goals.
Delegate tasks: Delegating tasks to others can help to reduce your workload and free up time and energy for other activities. Identify areas where you can delegate tasks, and be willing to let go of control
Build a support network: Surround yourself with people who you trust and who you can rely on for support. This can include colleagues, friends, family, or even a mentor or coach.
The natural genius
People with the natural genius type of imposter syndrome may feel like they have to be a natural expert in everything they do and may be reluctant to try new things for fear of failure. They may feel like they should be able to master new skills or tasks easily, without much effort or practice.
Tips for overcoming the natural genius type of imposter syndrome:
Embrace a growth mindset: Adopting a growth mindset can help you to overcome the idea that you have to be a natural expert at everything. Recognise that learning and growth are ongoing processes and that it's okay to make mistakes and struggle along the way.
Set achievable goals: Rather than trying to master new skills or tasks all at once, set achievable goals for yourself and work towards them in manageable steps. Celebrate your progress along the way, and use setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself, and recognise that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would offer to a friend who was struggling.
Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon that affects many people, regardless of their age, gender, or profession. It can take many forms, from the expert to the natural genius, and can have a profound impact on people's confidence, well-being, and success.
If you are experiencing imposter syndrome, it's important to recognise that you are not alone and that there are steps you can take to overcome it. By challenging negative self-talk, setting realistic expectations, practising self-care, and building a support network, you can learn to overcome the feelings of self-doubt and insecurity that often come with imposter syndrome.
Remember, you are capable, worthy, and deserving of success. By taking action to overcome imposter syndrome, you can unleash your full potential and achieve the success that you deserve.