This feeling can be so strong, and affect someone’s mindset so powerfully, that it leads them to avoid things they could be doing successfully for fear of being found out as unqualified or incompetent. Does this sound familiar?
Here are some of the symptoms of this syndrome:
- Imagining yourself to be incompetent or a fraud
- Feeling like you have fooled everyone into thinking you are competent
- Obsession with people finding out that you are a fraud
- Fear of taking credit for success or accomplishments
- Deciding not to pursue any opportunities or chances that could expose your flaws to others
- Struggling to feel confident in any of your abilities
- A feeling that you don’t deserve any of the success you have achieved so far and/or getting frustrated at your success as if it was a fluke
- After a success, becoming worried that you’ve fooled people into thinking you are intelligent, good at your job, or successful
- A feeling of shame when receiving praise for an accomplishment
- A feeling of anxiety when expected to live up to your potential or qualifications
- A feeling of anticipation before you have to do something that might expose your incompetence
- A feeling of dread or ‘something bad’ when you think about a task that you have to do.
- A feeling of uncertainty or worry about your ability to do your job well
- Insecure, negative self-talk in which you question or doubt yourself and your abilities
- An inability to come up with the right solutions when solving problems
- Decision making: difficulty being decisive in general
The above are only some possible symptoms, and you may experience others. It is also very common to exhibit some of these symptoms but not feel their effects as strongly as someone else would.
Also, note that some symptoms can be triggered in specific situations without having a generalized feeling of it. It is common to have experienced at least one situation in which one, many, or all of these feelings have come into play, even if most days you feel confident in your abilities and don’t question yourself.
As a Woman, I’ve Been Confronted With Impostor Syndrome (Plagued with Self-Doubt and Fear)
In my opinion, though impostor syndrome is not unique to women, I strongly believe women are more vulnerable to it than men because of the many social factors that we face.
According to info.kpmg.us, “Eighty-five percent believe imposter syndrome is commonly experienced by women”. As a woman and having experienced impostor syndrome first-hand, I can say that my first reaction when reading this statistic was: “I’m not alone!”.
It is common for people to have the feeling that they are not good enough, or to have fears about being exposed as an ‘impostor’ in their jobs. If you’re reading this and saying, “Yes, I can relate!”, you’re in a similar boat to many other women who do great things and are highly qualified yet feel like they’re just faking it.
Also, “fake it til you make it” didn’t work for me because deep inside, I still had the fear of being exposed as a real fraud. I have found that the best way to deal with this syndrome is simply not to ignore it.
I would face it head-on and say to myself: “Ok, so I’m feeling insecure about my abilities. This doesn’t mean I am a fraud. I work hard and do my best every day, so let’s get on with it and be proud of what I’ve achieved!”
The mental state that most people experience when they encounter impostor syndrome is one of feeling inadequate and unworthy. When it comes to women, this is even more common because we have been “trained” by a patriarchal society to focus on pleasing others and are often expected to have more submissive roles. This further adds to the feeling of being a fraud, as, for example, you might think you don’t deserve as much as others do. This can be a very subtle and sometimes unconscious thought, and it can often be very hard to recognize, leading to making you feel that you are not good enough and then being forced to believe that you must therefore be inferior to others.
I also think women have it worse than men because “masculine” qualities (such as being ambitious and competitive) are commonly accepted – so it can be a blow to our self-esteem when we’re not accepted by society for displaying these qualities ourselves.
Here are some examples I think women go through when experiencing impostor syndrome:
- Not being able to do or say the right things.
- Being judged as inferior for being too sensitive/emotional or too direct.
- Not being allowed to make mistakes, be outspoken or express emotion.
- Feeling like you must be strong and take on everything yourself instead of allowing others to share the load.
- Being put down for showing ambition, intelligence, and strength of character.
- Feeling extremely worried about revealing any perceived incompetence, such as discovering your weaknesses to bosses, co-workers, or clients.
- Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Not being respected for your opinions, abilities, and accomplishments.
The feeling of being a fraud is harmful, and it can affect your self-development and sense of identity.
Let’s look at how to get through it and stop feeling like you’re a fraud.
How to Beat Impostor Syndrome
For me, the key has always been not to ignore it. The syndrome is the impostor, and if you ignore it, it will only have more power.
However, I don’t feel like the best reaction is to go on a rampage and pretend that you’re a confident person when you’re not. Acknowledging that you are feeling this way and not trying to hide it will help you come to terms with it.
Here are some tips to try and help you overcome impostor syndrome:
1. Do not compare yourself to others. If you do, it will be difficult to ‘beat’ the impostor syndrome.
2. Avoid worrying too much about possibly being exposed as an impostor. Life is too short to spend your time worrying about such a small thing in the grand scheme. If you keep thinking about it, then spot it, take yourself for a walk or do something that you enjoy.
3. After identifying the syndrome, show yourself some love and support. This will help you get through the feelings of doubt and anxiety. Here you will find helpful self-care ideas to help you beat impostor syndrome.
4. Go on a self-development course and learn about the different types of confidence and ways to improve your self-esteem.
5. Stay positive, upbeat, and happy whenever possible. Try telling yourself that this feeling of inadequacy is only temporary and should eventually go away.
6. Find a friend or someone to talk to that is impartial and can give you advice and be a good shoulder to cry on. Sometimes talking to someone who understands can help you get through it, and you can come out stronger.
7. Tell yourself that you deserve the success and achievements that you’ve got. You worked hard for them, and they’re yours, so don’t feel guilty about having them.
8. Be proud of what you’ve achieved and the person you are. You are wonderful!
9. Get therapy if needed. There is a lot of stigma around therapy, but it can be incredibly helpful to get things off your chest in a safe and confidential environment.
10. Surround yourself with positive people/friends who lift you and not bring you down.
11. Forgive yourself for any perceived weaknesses or mistakes you have made. It’s easy to beat yourself up over things, but you must forgive yourself as soon as you can.
12. If you feel like an impostor, say it aloud: “I feel like an impostor!”. Then breathe slowly and calmly as though you can accept it.
The more you combat the impostor syndrome, the less power it will have over you. Remember, it is only a made-up story in your mind that creates the uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough.
You are a great person, you deserve success, and you are as good as anyone else in the world.
Let go of the story, and you, too, will achieve greatness.
About the author:
Patri Hernandez is the founder of ohmightyhealth.com, where she helps readers get started on their journey to healing and building a strong foundation for their future self-care practices through personal development, mindset, and mental health.