“I don’t have as much knowledge as you think”, “There’s nothing wrong with my knowledge and skills”, “What if it doesn’t work out?”, — This is the inner voice of a person with an imposter complex, who finds it difficult to accept praise, recognize their victories, and is afraid of making the slightest mistake.
If you know this voice, be sure to read this article to find out where it comes from and, most importantly, how to deal with it.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
To understand how to deal with imposter syndrome, you need to “identify the enemy” and understand what it is.
The word “syndrome” is more in the medical field and means “a collection of symptoms”. But this word is used to describe such an unpleasant phenomenon, which is a set of different feelings, such as insecurity about oneself and one’s expertise, the fear that someone may accuse a person of unprofessionalism and lack of proper competence, and doubts. And such feelings can appear even in an experienced specialist.
“Imposter syndrome” is a phenomenon in which a person is unable to attribute their victories and achievements, no matter how large and significant they were — any achievement they perceive as a fortunate circumstance or unexpected luck, but not as the result of their efforts.
How the Syndrome Arises
There is still no single cause of the “impostor” because the syndrome occurs in people with different lifestyles, status, marital status, level of education, intelligence, and income.
But researchers have managed to identify some typical causes of this syndrome:
- A more gifted brother or sister, who was constantly set as an example and compared to. In this case, a person has spent their life trying to grow up, to prove that they are also worth something.
- Excessive praise from relatives and parents. Growing up, a person begins to realize that they aren’t so “good” as everyone thought of them.
- High requirements to achieve success in the family, which force a person to work and study to the limit to earn the love and attention of relatives. In such a family model, there is no support and approval.
According to the Dunning-Kruger effect, impostor syndrome occurs only in those who can realize and admit their ignorance, which creates doubt. Conversely, incompetent people feel at ease because they don’t allow for the possibility that they may not know or know something.
Despite all the differences in the mechanisms of the syndrome, it manifests itself quite typically.
Signs of an Imposter Complex
“Symptoms” of an imposter complex can manifest themselves in this way:
- A sense of undeservedness of their accomplishments and a belief that those around them are overestimating their successes, praising them out of politeness or fear of offending them.
- Fear of being seen as incompetent and undeserving of the status and benefits they have.
- Thoughts of themselves as deceivers who don’t possess expertise but skillfully pretends to be successful and confident.
- Attributing any of their victories and achievements to the lucky stars. For example, a person believes that their successful bets aren’t the result of constantly reading News and Predictions at 22Bet but just a fortunate outcome.
- Constant insecurity about themselves and their competence.
- Setting deliberately unrealistic goals as a way of proving to oneself one’s inability to succeed.
- Fear of not living up to someone’s expectations.
If we summarize these signs and highlight the main one, we get 3 main characteristics:
- Lying. A person is sure that they are only pretending to be competent, hence deceiving others. As a consequence, fear of exposure.
- Impairment. Underestimating the importance of one’s victories and being unable to accept praise and recognition from others.
- Randomness of victories. Attributing any success to sheer luck or chance.
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome
Since impostor syndrome is a complex of feelings, it’s impossible to fight it in one way because each person has their characteristics. There is no point in getting rid of impostor syndrome completely because it has a positive side — the desire to constantly improve skills and gain new knowledge to perform tasks as well as possible.
But it’s important to keep a measure and the selection below will help keep the zeal of the “imposter” under control.
The human brain has a nasty tendency to focus on the negative, and if you don’t specifically focus on victories and successes, beliefs like “I’m failing” and “I haven’t done anything” will come to the forefront.
Keeping a success diary shifts the focus to the facts of positive change and trains the skill of noticing achievements.
The diary can be in a beautiful notebook that you’ll enjoy picking up or in your phone’s notes so you can jot down another victory at any time. Choose a method that you are comfortable with and make notes daily.
A few recommendations on how to do it:
- Try to stay mindful throughout the day and keep track of what you do and how you do it, how and what you talk to others, what you think about and how you react to different situations. This will help you track more changes.
- Write down the accomplishment in a notebook or in your notes right away so you don’t forget about it later.
- Write down in a journal your victories of any magnitude, from walking the dog to winning a major contract.
- Re-read your entries from time to time.
This practice will help build positive thinking, increase self-esteem, confidence and strengthen your self-organization skills.
Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy, and he was very right. Think of how your self-esteem peaks while listing all the differences. It’s clearly an unresourceful activity.
To stop taking the time to do it, you have to:
- Take regular vacations from social media. We may think that they have no influence, but the images of “success” are still recorded in the subcortex and “phoned in”, especially during periods of moral decline.
- Compare constructively. If you are comparing, do it in a way that benefits you. This means that when evaluating the difference, you should think about what you need to do to get closer to the desired result.
- Remember your path and uniqueness. Comparing yourself to another person makes no sense (unless it’s constructive) just as it makes no sense to compare a dolphin and a giraffe. They are two living creatures, but they are completely different.
- Listen to yourself more often. Observe what exactly triggers negative emotions in you. When you identify the trigger, you will understand what you want and what is really important to you.
- Be kinder to yourself. Remember that everyone has their own comfortable pace of development, experiences, and unique view of the world. Allow yourself to take this path as you see fit. After all, it is yours.
Praise is essential in forming a new attitude toward yourself, because only through praise can a new attitude take hold. Whenever you are able to react differently to imposter syndrome, you need positive reinforcement to help this way of reacting become habitual.
Praise will be effective if:
- Do it consciously, not automatically, for a check mark.
- Select not only fundamental and/or unusual reasons, but focus more often on small and routine accomplishments.
- Praise will be followed by reflection and analysis of how the overall behavioral strategy changes for the better.
- There is specificity in the wording. For example, not “I did well for getting through/completing a task” but “I did well for getting through/completing a huge article on time.”
- Praise phrased in a positive way: not “I’m awesome for not reacting to the provocation” but “I’m awesome for keeping my cool.”
- Focus on what exactly was done rather than the emotional component, since the main purpose of praise is to fix a new pattern of behavior, not just to be pleased.
Building Personal Boundaries
The first place to start in building boundaries is to examine yourself.
Here are some questions to help you do this:
- What am I not acceptable in socializing?
- How do I want others to treat me?
- What are my life principles?
- If I experience negative emotions in communication with another person, how do I let them know?
- Where do my interests rank?
The second step, after you understand your level of normality in communicating with others, is to practice the skill of speaking up about your desires.
At this stage, it’s important to remember that how the person reacts to what you say is the person’s responsibility, not yours. To avoid getting personal, use “self-talk” and only talk about yourself and your feelings. For example, not “You’re not listening to me,” but “I hate not being listened to. Please, if you are not interested, say so.”
And the third step is practicing resilience: if something is voiced, stay true/faithful to those words. This is an important point, because until the new pattern takes hold, there is a risk of slipping into the old one.
Learning to Accept Gratitude
The answer to the question of how to learn to accept gratitude lies in the question itself. It’s necessary to accept it.
Often people react like this: “Come on, don’t thank me, I didn’t do anything wrong”, and if this applies to you, the exercise below will help you change this reaction.
Every time you hear a thank you, do the following:
- Calmly let the person say whatever they want to say.
- While you are listening, shift your attention to your body and listen to where you feel tension.
- Relax that spot. You may not be able to do this the first time. In that case, keep relaxing as much as you can right now.
- When you are able to let go of the tension, listen to what emotion you are feeling now.
The ability to accept gratitude is the key to coping with imposter syndrome, because it is impossible to feel both “good for you” and “fraud” at the same time and with the same sincerity.