Imposter Syndrome and Self Growth

I have written 11 books, but each time I think, “uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they are going to find me out.”

Maya Angelou

Wonder why a poet, memoirist and civil rights activist – basically an all-rounder felt like this? She suffered from a condition called the imposter syndrome.

What is the imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. People who suffer from this syndrome have chronic self doubt and feel like they don’t really deserve their accomplishments. Atleast 75% of people experience the imposter syndrome in episodes.

Examples of this feeling could be:

  • Thinking that you do not deserve a spot at the best university or company
  • Giving credit to luck instead of hard work for your success
  • Believing that your acceptance into a company is a ‘technical error’
  • Believing that you don’t deserve the rewards and recognition that you get

How does one get the imposter syndrome? There could be many reasons:

  • Constant critiquing at home, work or school
  • It could also be because of all the content that we consume in a day. It is natural to feel like we are not doing enough
  • Studies also suggest that minorities in any society are more susceptible to the syndrome (I don’t think we need an explanation why)

“When you come from a poor or working class background, if you’re a woman, if you’re person of color, if you have an immigrant story, you’re a first generation, you’re always haunted by impostor’s syndrome, like this idea that you got here by accident.”

-AOC

This syndrome is not uncommon. People with this syndrome could be highly motivated but wouldn’t really believe that they deserve any of the credit that comes their way.

Those who have the syndrome are called ‘Imposters’. People with this syndrome feel like a fake. They feel like they will be “discovered”, “found out” or “unmasked”. They feel like the others have been deceived into thinking that they are successful.

While having the imposter syndrome can be a competitive advantage (Pushes you to do better, pushes you towards perfection etc) , it can also hamper your self-growth.

  • It may hold you back from sharing great ideas at different programs or at work
  • It may hold you back from working towards that promotion you think you do not deserve
  • It may drain you out. You will lose your sense of balance. Critiquing your work no matter how good it is will only burn you out
  • It can lower your self-confidence and also restrict innovative thinking 

According to experts, the syndrome occurs in episodes. Here are the steps recommended to combat the imposter syndrome by Valerie Young a leading Imposter Syndrome Expert:

  1. Break the silence
  2. Separate feelings from fact
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent
  4. Accentuate the positive
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making
  6. Right the rules
  7. Develop a new script
  8. Visualize success
  9. Reward yourself
  10. Fake it ‘til you make it.

Click here to read about these steps in detail.

The imposter syndrome cannot be prevented. One may experience it at least once in their lifetime. The key here would be to identify it when it occurs and talk about it.

A fun fact (if you could call it that) about the imposter syndrome is that: The opposite of imposter syndrome is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is the false belief that we know more than we do. I’m sure most of us deal with episodes of this effect as well 🙂

-N

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