Imposter Syndrome: How to Deal With It and Own Your Achievements
Have you ever felt unqualified to do your job? Or that you didn’t deserve that A+? Are you so afraid of messing up at work or school that you sometimes feel paralyzed by it? Do you secretly fear that eventually everyone is going to find out that you are a total fraud and you have no idea what you're doing?
Then you might know something about what it feels like to have imposter syndrome.
“This idea that you’re undeserving, a fraud—that you’re not as smart or talented or “together” as people might think makes you an “imposter” and therefore unqualified in whatever it is you want to do and someday you’re going to be found out. By whom? The imposter police? You’re not an imposter, you’re a human being.” ― Anthony Meindl, Unstuck: A Life Manual On How To Be More Creative, Overcome Your Obstacles, and Get Shit Done
Worry not; this mindset is much more common than you think. Many people experience deep self-doubt that has affected their personal and professional lives.
This guide will help you identify imposter syndrome and give you tips to deal with how it manifests.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a condition that makes people believe they are undeserving of what they have achieved. They doubt their abilities, skills, and whether their accomplishments are truly theirs.
As a consequence of these feelings, people believe themselves to be imposters and fear being exposed as a fraud. The term was coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.
Here's an apt quote summing up imposter syndrome by someone you might have heard of:
“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’re going to find me out."- Maya Angelou
Imposter syndrome is characterized by negative thinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. When you think you're not good enough, your mindset can try to protect you by procrastinating, messing things up, or not taking chances because you don't want to be disappointed.
Is Imposter Syndrome Common?
Despite how isolating it can feel, imposter syndrome is relatively common. Almost 65% of professionals experience the condition at some point.
It is significantly more common in high achievers, perfectionists, or those who receive a lot of attention for their work.
“Absolutely everybody wants to be liked (law 1). Everyone feels different inside (less confident, less able, etc.) from how they infer other people to feel (law 2). Few honest and courageous people who have achieved anything of real value in life do not feel a fraud much of the time (law 3). Acceptance of these three 'laws' alone would save an awful lot of people an awful lot of grief!” ― David Smail, Power, Responsibility and Freedom
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can affect anyone regardless of their social status, work background, or degree of expertise. There are many reasons why someone might have imposter syndrome and like many things, it can come back to how we were raised and how we grew up in childhood.
It may stem from the following root causes:
- Overprotective or controlling parents
- An upbringing full of criticisms or praises
- Feeling like you don't belong or are not capable at a new job or school
- Pressure to achieve and succeed mixed with lack of experience
- Personality traits like perfectionism, neuroticism, and low self-efficacy
- Social anxiety
- Negative stereotypes
- And more.
How do I Know if I Act Out Behaviors of Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can be difficult to identify since it's a mindset challenge instead but it definitely can be dealt with if you learn the right strategies. Otherwise, we wouldn't hear about so many incredibly successful people who still find themselves doubting themselves even while accomplishing so much.
“I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I inhabit. I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.” - Sonia Sotomayor, First Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
These common behaviors that stem from this mindset (whether temporary, situational, and also long term) are common indicators:
- Fear of not living up to expectations
- Agonizing over minor issues
- Feeling unworthy of attention or affection
- Feeling that overworking is the only way to meet expectations
- Sensitivity to constructive criticism
- Fear of being exposed as a fraud
- Berating one’s own performance
- Downplaying skills and achievements
- Attributing one's success to external factors instead of their own effort
- Setting unrealistic goals
How Does Imposter Syndrome Show up in My Daily Life?
Unlike other emotional issues, imposter syndrome may not cause obvious issues in one’s life because they can arise as protection mechanisms that people can adapt to. It's also why many people might not want to do anything about it or even consider it a problem that needs to be solved. Many of my clients are not even aware that certain patterns of behavior that they have could be linked to imposter syndrome.
Here are some ways that imposter syndrome shows up in your life:
- Increased stress from being hard on yourself and feeling like a fraud
- Not pursuing a much-deserved raise or promotion
- Avoiding speaking up or participating in class or at work
- Parents who doubt their parenting ability and decisions
- Engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors in relationships
What Are the Types of Imposter Syndrome?
Now competency might mean different things to different people. It is hard to determine how a person’s imposter syndrome may manifest.
Here are five identified types to make it easier:
They demand perfection from themselves in every aspect of life.
This subtype believes that they must know all there is to know about a subject. Not knowing everything makes them feel like an imposter.
The Natural Genius
They put a lot of stock in natural ability and think that putting in a lot of effort to acquire skills makes one a phony.
They believe working with a team or asking for help makes one less competent.
They believe their worthiness is determined by their success in every aspect of life.
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome?
Handling imposter syndrome begins by taking control of your thoughts and beliefs. When you change your thinking patterns, you change the behavior that feeds into these insecurities and gain more control over your life.
Here are some practical ways to beat imposter syndrome:
Work on Your Confidence to Combat Your Imposter Syndrome
Since a lot of this condition stems from misplaced beliefs, begin by separating your feelings and the facts.
Confront your negative thoughts by answering the following questions:
- What are your core beliefs about yourself?
- What evidence do you have that you are not capable?
- Do you believe your present self is worthy of love?
- Do you think you need to be perfect for others to approve of you?
- Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself?
- Do you believe it is rational to think of yourself as incompetent given your knowledge and experience?
Write down your negative thoughts about your incompetence and compare them with your accomplishments.
Lean into your feelings, accept them, and understand what fuels them.
Then deal with the root cause.
Take Little Steps to Tackle Your Imposter Syndrome Fears
This quote by Eleanor Roosevelt perfectly sums up the importance of actions in dealing with fears:
"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face....We must do that which we think we cannot." - Eleanor Roosevelt
Here are some empowering baby steps you can take:
- Listen to people instead of comparing yourself to them constantly
- Share your accomplishments with others
- Use social media entirely if it fuels the negative feelings
- Lend others your help and ask the same from them
Transformational Life Coaching and EFT Tapping for Imposter Syndrome
The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is rooted in the mindset that limiting beliefs are layers in people’s minds that can be peeled and cleared. It aims to neutralize the source of your negative beliefs to bring balance to your thoughts. Taking ownership of your success instead of getting trapped in negative feelings will help you look at your accomplishments with a sense of pride and even gratitude.
Feeling like an imposter needs to be dealt with, and it shouldn't stop you from doing your work or achieving your goals. Changing your mindset, tackling your fears, and partnering with an EFT coach will help you along the way.
Do you find yourself doing any of the things above? Working to clear these beliefs and behaviors is possible if you start peeling away the layers where these experiences have solidified the imposter beliefs.
As an EFT practitioner, I can help guide you through the process and give you direction every step of the way. They will help you focus on the correct elements to get results even from the first session.
Click here to book a personalized EFT session or schedule a free discovery call to further understand the process and see if we’re a good fit and can tap on your issue!
ANDREA HUNT - Online Transformational Life Coach & EFT Tapping Practitioner based in Munich, Germany
I'm an accredited transformational life coach from Animas Centre for Coaching UK and a member of the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a Level 2 practitioner in EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and a member of AEFTP (Association of Emotional Freedom Technique Professionals).
If you're not sure where to start transforming your life, you can download my free ebook on How to Start Your Personal Growth Journey.
Are you ready to change your life, let go of old beliefs, empower yourself for a mindset shift to move forward? Mark Batterson says: You're always one decision away from a totally different life.
Header image: Madrona Rose
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