You don’t belong, you’re not good enough, you’re confused, and you’re given too much credit. Have any of those thoughts ever crossed your brain?

Feelings of self-doubt are normal. In fact, overwhelming and intense feelings of self-doubt are normal, too, as nearly 70% of the population experience them through a little something known as imposter syndrome. 

The Basics

The term “imposter syndrome” was first conceived by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, but it is safe to assume that the feelings associated with it have been around for much longer. 

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one experiences feelings of failure, inadequacy, and self-doubt despite a proven record of accomplishments. “Imposters” believe that they are less competent than they are given credit for, and they worry that people will expose them as a fraud. Unable to own their success, they often attribute their accomplishments to luck, rather than things like skill or experience. 

Are You an Imposter?

When the term was originally coined, only women were believed to be affected by imposter syndrome. The original theory has been since disproven, and almost anyone is capable of experiencing the associated feelings. However, The New York Times notes that some groups of people have proven to be disproportionately affected, such as women and minority groups. Environment, discrimination, and other social factors contribute to one’s ability to feel like an imposter.  

A large marker of who is affected by imposter syndrome comes down to personality types. Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women and imposter syndrome expert, has noted themes in those who experience imposter feelings. 

For example, perfectionism is often linked to imposter syndrome. People who set such a high standard for themselves will never realistically live up to their own expectations, regardless of any award or recognition they earn, and thus, they are left feeling undeserving of their praise. 

Besides perfectionists, Young cites other personality types who commonly are known to have imposter feelings, such as what she refers to as experts, natural geniuses, soloists, and supermen/women.

Fighting the Feeling

Self-doubt is the main contributor to imposter syndrome. While many people doubt themselves at times, people who believe to be imposters allow their self-doubt to control their actions.

In order to change any personal behavior, the typical first step is to recognize when that behavior is happening. Be aware of your thoughts and learn to detect when imposter feelings or actions are taking place. You may even be able to notice trends and triggers so that you can identify them before they flare up.

After awareness, the next step is to reframe how you mentally respond to imposter thoughts. TIME suggests that you can observe the thought without engaging in it. That way, you’re able to be critical and look at your own thoughts with an outsider’s perspective, allowing you to separate your feelings from the facts. 

Everyone has moments when they feel stupid or incompetent, but that doesn’t mean they are. It doesn’t make you a fraud, it makes you a human being. Everyone has moments of confusion; not knowing everything is normal. Even the most successful people experience it. 

When you make a mistake, which you will because we all will, try to develop a learning-based response. Rather than being hard on yourself, look for opportunities to grow and be better next time. Mistakes are only mistakes if nothing is learned from them.

Lastly, talk to trusted friends or colleagues about your feelings. When you bottle up emotions, they intensify, and you’re often led to believe that you’re the only one who has those feelings. Seeking support from others can be a helpful reality check to show you that other people have felt the same way, and your feelings are normal. Knowing you’re not alone can bring a lot of mental ease. 

Imposter syndrome is a common mental barrier that holds people back from realizing their capabilities. Knowted wants to help you overcome your obstacles and unlock your personal and professional potential. For more information about Knowted, check out our products and services!

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