What is Imposter Syndrome?

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Have you experienced…?

  • Self-doubt

  • Trouble setting boundaries at work

  • Difficulty internalizing success

  • High self-criticism

  • Perfectionism that leads to being paralyzed

  • Avoidance

  • Feeling inadequate or not good enough

  • Self-sabotage

  • Repeating statements such as, “I’m here because of luck;” “I should know everything in my field;” “Something bad will happen to erase all the good stuff happening;” “I won’t be able to live up to everyone’s expectations of me.”

 

If these statements and questions resonate with you then you are not alone. Many individuals, especially those with historically marginalized identities (i.e., Latinx, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+) experience self-sabotaging thoughts that minimize their abilities and accomplishments. This experience is called imposter syndrome.

 

After being introduced by psychologists, Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, imposter syndrome is described as a phenomenon that occurs amongst high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their own personal success. Experiencing imposter syndrome makes you feel insecure and like a fraud for gaining attention or accolades for your accomplishments. Feelings of inadequacy, incompetency, and self-doubt surface despite evidence showing that you are skilled, capable, and uniquely successful.

 

Common characteristics or signs of imposter syndrome include:

  • Self-doubt

  • Feelings of inadequacy

  • Comparison

  • Perfectionism

  • Fear of failure

  • Overpreparing

  • Inability to realistically assess your competence and skills

  • Attributing your success to external factors

  • Minimizing positive feedback

  • Berating your performance

 

Although it is common to have the overwhelming pressure to achieve and believe that your success is underperforming, this experience is more common amongst BIPOC and other marginalized communities.

 

BIPOC and other marginalized communities who experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told their entire life that they are not good enough, less than, or undeserving of success, begin to believe this long-standing narrative that they are, indeed, not enough. For individuals with layered identities that have been historically oppressed (i.e., working-class background, woman, Latinx, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, undocumented immigrant, First-Generation), you are always haunted by imposter syndrome. Research shows that feelings associated with imposter syndrome can lead to mental health complications such as anxiety, depression, or traumatic stress, thus, further exacerbating mental health complications in communities of color.

 

How do we fight and overcome imposter syndrome?

 

  • Break your silence. Talk to someone. You are not alone and your feelings are valid.

  • Identify the negative core belief causing the imposter syndrome and reprogram that belief. You can begin by practicing self-reflection and asking yourself the following questions: 

    • What negative core beliefs am I holding on to? 

    • Is it my inner voice that I am hearing or is it someone else’s? 

    • What value do I hold over myself?

When identifying these core beliefs remember to be kind as you might identify unhealed parts of yourself. Confronting these ingrained beliefs is the definite start to managing the anxiety that comes from imposter syndrome. 

  • Create a support network (i.e., trusted friends, mentors, coaches, therapist).

  • Change your perspective and language. Give encouragement based on effort, not on traits.

  • Come up with a list of positive self-affirmations that can help you challenge and overcome intrusive thoughts. With repetition and intention, your mindset can shift into a more positive one.

  • Celebrate success. Instead of minimizing your accomplishments, acknowledge them, and praise your success. You showed up, you did the work, and you deserve all the recognition.

  • Self-compassion. Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best that you can.

 

Understand that you are not alone, and others are struggling just like you. Look through the lens of self-love and self-compassion. Unapologetically reclaim your self-worth. Remember, you are MORE THAN ENOUGH!

 

 

 

References:

 

Charleson, Kimberly (2021). “What is imposter syndrome? Believing your accomplishments are due to luck, not talent.” Verywell Health.

 

Weir, Kirsten (2013). “Feel like a fraud?” American Psychological Association.