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Have you ever found yourself thinking that you don’t belong? Like you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments? These feelings can be termed as Impostor Syndrome. First identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, Impostor Syndrome is an internal experience of believing that you are not as adept as others perceive you to be. Originally Impostor Syndrome was found mostly in competent, achieving women but the field research now shows that almost 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives. Impostor Syndrome affects all kinds of people from all parts of life: women, men, medical students, international students, women in STEM, marketing managers, actors, writers, managers and executives.
Not being able to own your success, even though people around you tell you’re capable still you can’t help but self doubt, constant comparison, attributing your success to external factors, fear that you won't live up to expectations and can’t achieve constant success are some of the symptoms of Impostor Syndrome. To some people Impostor Syndrome can act as a catalyst for motivation whereas to others it can take a form of serious anxiety. Impostor Syndrome leads you to believe that the presentation you just explained was only possible because of the multiple rehearsals you conducted last night, worrying about messing up a project even before taking it under your wing, rejecting self praise and persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud" just because you don’t know how to do a certain task. In the worst case scenario these internalized fears may even take the form of depression.
Further Impostor Syndrome can be classified in following terms:
- The Perfectionist: They are never satisfied and always feel that their work could be better. Rather than focusing on their strengths, they tend to fixate on their flaws, building piles of anxiety.
- The natural genius: They are used to being skillful naturally and when they encounter situations where they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an impostor.
- The expert: They feel the need to know every piece of information before they start a project. They won’t apply for a job if they don’t meet all the criteria. They are hesitant to ask question because they’re afraid of looking stupid if they don’t already know the answer.
- Superhero: They tend to push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors.
- The soloist: These people tend to be very individualistic and prefer to work alone.They view asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence.
There hasn’t been a known cause for Impostor Syndrome but in some cases experts believe it has to do with personality traits like anxiety or neuroticism also industrialized discrimination be it on gender or race. While other factors can be some childhood memories such as parents not appreciating your work and making you feel that your grades were never good enough or always having to live in the shadow of your sibling. These factors may not seem such a big deal but to some it can leave a longing impact. To deal with Impostor Syndrome may not be easy but it’s not impossible. Self evaluation and knowing where to place the thoughts might be the first step in overcoming it. Sharing your thoughts with trusted friends or family members may also be of some help. Learning to value constructive criticism and acknowledging the fact that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. There will always be moments where you’ll doubt yourself and honestly that's okay but constantly telling yourself that you are no more than an Impostor desperately holding the veil is unhealthy. Let go of perfectionism, embrace your abilities and say yes to opportunities, after all life is all about learning, failing and standing up again. You are no less than the next person on the line.
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