In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first identified the "imposter phenomenon." Over time, this has come to be called “imposter syndrome,” which is when a person experiences internal feelings of inadequacy or “phoniness”—despite external evidence to the contrary. Some common signs of imposter syndrome include:
- Attributing success to luck or happenstance
- Difficulty accepting compliments or praise
- Perfectionism or holding oneself to unrealistic standards
- Shame about hiding the secret of who the sufferer “really” is
- Paralyzing fear of failure
Take Mike, for example, who struggles with imposter syndrome. Mike began working as a carpentry apprentice 10 years ago. He learned quickly and became more skilled as time passed. He started his own carpentry business a few years ago and he’s grown to have 15 employees. Mike has earned most of his business via word of mouth through clients sharing what a great job he and his company have done.
Despite his skill level, years of experience and excellent reputation, Mike is plagued by the feeling that he just isn’t good enough…that he’s secretly incompetent. Mike fears that others might “discover” that he is a fraud and that he is unworthy of the positive reputation he has earned.
So, how can a person overcome the lingering self-doubt that occurs with imposter syndrome? Here are five ways to help embrace one’s authentic self and internalize one’s success:
- Cut out comparisons: Often negatively biased (and rarely helpful), comparison has been called “the thief of joy.”
- Practice self-compassion: On her website, Dr. Kristen Neff, a renowned self-compassion researcher, offers free exercises to help improve in this area.
- Share: Just like mold, symptoms of imposter syndrome grow in the dark. When we risk talking about this with others, we often find they have similar fears and insecurities.
- Track successes: Keep an email folder to save praise or compliments or track accomplishments in a journal or on a smartphone.
- Let go of the “myth of perfection”: The very idea of perfection is subjective and therefore impossible to achieve.
If you are struggling with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, the skilled professionals at Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today!