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What You NEED To Know About Imposter Syndrome: History, Cause, Types, and MORE!

Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? People these days use this term a lot since the awareness about this syndrome raised.

Imposter Syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony. A person experiencing this syndrome would feel like at any moment they are going to be found out as a fraud.

Since they have this strong feeling that they don’t belong where they are, they feel like every achievement is pure dumb luck.

Have you ever felt this way? Well, let’s find out more about Imposter Syndrome.

History of Imposter Syndrome

So what is Imposter Syndrome, really? Imposter syndrome is an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Someone experiencing this syndrome usually has a hard time acknowledging their own hard work and achievements.

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, despite their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise. You will feel the fear of being found out as a fraud, that you are not good enough for whatever you have achieved so far.

The term “Imposter Syndrome” was first recognized back in the 1970s in the United States. Psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance introduced the concept of Imposter Syndrome in 1978.

The psychologists noticed that women in high achieving positions felt a stronger sense of self-doubt, incompetence, and fear of not performing well in the future more.

Their observation led to the conclusion that this syndrome was common among high-achieving professional women. However, they also noticed that males were experiencing imposter syndrome as well.

The Cause of Imposter Syndrome

Certain factors can be the cause of Imposter Syndrome in general. Someone might be raised in a family environment that values achievement highly or flipped back and forth between praising and criticizing.

Not only caused by how a person is raised but Imposter Syndrome can also be experienced because of entering a new role in a certain social environment. For instance, you might feel as if you’re not competent enough to be a leader of a theatre club even though you have been studying performance art for years.

These feelings usually would lead a person into negative thinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. If this happens, this would affect different areas of your life and even hold you back from recognizing your potential.

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Recognizing Imposter Syndrome

According to The Recovery Village, there are several symptoms of Imposter Syndrome that a person may exhibit. These symptoms are based on Dr. Clance’s imposter phenomenon scale which is as follows:

  1. Feeling like success is impossible
  2. Feeling incompetent despite demonstrating competency
  3. Fear of not meeting another person’s expectations
  4. Feeling like past successes and hard work was only due to luck
  5. Feeling incapable of performing at the same level every time
  6. Feeling uncomfortable with receiving praise or congratulations
  7. Feeling disappointed over current accomplishments
  8. Feeling doubtful of successes
  9. Feeling constant pressure to achieve or be better than before
  10. Feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed from feelings of inadequacy

As these feelings may lead to constant negative thinking patterns, experiencing Imposter Syndrome frequently can develop other mental conditions. It may be helpful to talk to a therapist if you often find yourself experiencing this.

Different Types of Imposter Syndrome

An expert on Imposter Syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young, divided this condition into five different categories. Each category is defined by the type of individual experiencing Imposter Syndrome.

People struggling from Imposter Syndrome may fall into one or a mix of these categories, include:

  1. The Perfectionist: They are never satisfied and always feel that they could’ve done better. This type tends to focus more on flaws and mistakes rather than their strengths. Therefore, this type is often more prone to self-pressure and anxiety.
  2. The Superhero: This type feels the need to push themselves to work as hard as possible as they feel a huge amount of inadequacy.
  3. The Expert: They are always striving to learn more and are never satisfied with their level of knowledge and understanding. Despite their high skill or high level of expertise, they often feel that they are unintelligent and afraid that people would also find them so.
  4. The Natural Genius: This type tends to set unrealistically high goals for themselves and then feel devastated when they don’t succeed on their first try.
  5. The Soloist: They often appear to be individualistic and prefer to work on everything alone. Their self-worth stems from their productivity, which is why they perceive that asking for help is a sign of incompetence.

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The Relation Between Imposter Syndrome and Anxiety

As mentioned earlier, Imposter Syndrome may lead to other mental conditions. One of the most common ones is social anxiety.

According to Verywell Mind, Impostor Syndrome and social anxiety may overlap. A person suffering from social anxiety disorder may feel Imposter Syndrome in social or performance situations.

Even though the symptoms of social anxiety can lead to experiencing Imposter Syndrome, this does not mean that everyone with imposter syndrome has social anxiety or vice versa. Imposter Syndrome can cause even generally non-anxious people to feel a sense of anxiety in certain situations.

How To Cope With Imposter Syndrome

Since Imposter Syndrome is quite common, there are a few simple ways to cope with this condition. Simple might not always easy, but when you experience Imposter Syndrome, try doing these techniques:

  1. Talk to other people around you about how you are feeling as these feelings tend to affect you more when they are hidden.
  2. Stop focusing too much on yourself and focus more on others instead. Chances are, people don’t actually notice the thing that you consider to be a flaw (spotlight effect).
  3. Assess your abilities by keeping a record of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small) and write down things that you are good at. Be objective but generous about this, and you will see that you are more competent than you would like to admit.
  4. Reward yourself for having the courage in taking action even though you make mistakes and not being able to do things perfectly along the way. It’s about the progress, not the results.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others. These days, because we can easily see how people portray their so-called perfect life on social media, we might feel inadequate. Remember that nobody is perfect and it’s okay to have flaws.
  6. Don’t fight the feeling that you are not enough, but don’t let it hold you back. Acknowledge the feelings, understand how to cope with them, and keep going no matter what.

References

Arlin Cuncic 2021, Verywell Mind, accessed 19 November 2021, <https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469>

The Recovery Village 2020, accessed 19 November 2021, <https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/imposter-syndrome/>