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Imposter syndrome - how to deal with it

Imposter syndrome - How to deal with it-Empowerment Coaching Krakow

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that causes a lack of faith in one's own achievements. The definition of this syndrome first appeared in 1978.

The primary source of Impostor Syndrome is a false self-image. People with healthy self-esteem have an orderly, comprehensive self-image: they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They are also aware of their needs and can communicate them clearly. They appreciate their talents and truly enjoy them.

At the same time, they are not dependent on their weaknesses and are not subject to a compulsive desire to constantly improve them. And this behavior is very true for people with Imposter Syndrome. Importantly, such behaviors are triggered mostly unconsciously.

How we view ourselves, and how we think about ourselves (consciously and unconsciously) has a huge impact on our lives. For example, how we perceive the world: do we see it more as threats than opportunities to be used? What we engage in; what we avoid; what relationships we choose and whether we are able to consciously make choices in our lives, or whether we act on the principle of autopilot and are often subject to thinking "must" or "have to".

What are the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

Instead of enjoying life in your free time, you sit in front of the computer, looking for more e-books or training. You have the constant feeling that others know more than you, that you are constantly missing out on something.

Or maybe you always have to do some work first to give yourself the right to rest. Or you will not rest until you have completed your assigned task. Sometimes even at the cost of sleeping or declining an invitation to meet friends.

Moreover, maybe even if you achieve success, even if you are praised by others, you don't really enjoy it. You yourself are not convinced that what you have done has been appreciated, and some vague voice inside whispers to you that you need to be vigilant.

If so, you may have what psychologists called the imposter syndrome in 1978. It is a psychological phenomenon that causes a lack of self-confidence in one's own achievements. Despite external evidence of their own competence, those suffering from this syndrome remain convinced that they are scammers and do not deserve the success they have achieved. They see the causes of success in happiness, favorable circumstances, or as a result of being perceived as more intelligent and competent than they really are.

How big is the scale of people suffering from Imposter Syndrome?

I do not know if you are aware that in today's busy times, Imposter Syndrome affects about 70% of the world's population (1). And it does not matter if you work in a corporation or office, run your own business, or play sports professionally. Social status, gender, and wallet content do not matter.

Who of the famous people has struggled or is still struggling with Imposter Syndrome

Maybe you will also be comforted by the news that such "giants" as Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Agatha Christie, or Michelle Obama were struggling with this syndrome.

Michelle talks about it openly in one of her interviews:

What are the causes of Imposter Syndrome?

Typically, the causes of Impostor Syndrome are complex and related to childhood. They are often associated with excessive perfectionism, entrenched low self-esteem, or tendencies towards self-observation. Undoubtedly, the source is also the pace of life in today's world and the constant pressure that is exerted on us. You have to, you have to, you have to ... Or: if you don't do something (e.g. buy, learn), you will lose, you will lose, you will lose ...

Is there anything you can do about it?

YES! The first thing you need to do is realize that the problem exists, name it, and admit that it may be you. Then it will be much easier to focus on the solution and move on.

But how to do it?

In short, I would say this: start thinking about yourself and behaving towards yourself as you do towards your best friend. Become your best friend!

How to deal with the Imposter Syndrome

First of all, be less strict with yourself and more understanding and supportive (isn't that what you do with your friend?). Start practicing appreciating yourself. Not only in thoughts but in deeds. For example, as a recognition, give yourself some pleasure on a regular basis.

Also, start the process of limiting yourself from comparing yourself with other people. You are one of a kind. There is no such second person in the world. Among over 7 billion, NO! It's a miracle!

Perhaps this metaphor will appeal to you:

The flower does not compete with the flower growing next to it. It just blooms!

Or maybe a saying like this will help you change your perspective:

Everyone is ignorant. Just everyone in a different field. Even a genius.

Instead of constantly looking for flaws and imperfections, turn to a professional and ask for an objective assessment of your competencies. It may quickly turn out that all the positive opinions and kind words you have heard so far were not (as you thought) exaggerated.

For one week, observe yourself and see if by any chance you are expecting more from yourself than the outside world (such observation should not be difficult for you - after all, you are constantly monitoring and evaluating yourself, right?)

For the next week, DON'T do something, don't finish a task, and see if anything terrible has happened ?! And maybe experiencing such a situation (which you avoid so much) will bring you invaluable reflection. Your reflection.

Next week, introduce the "Ritual of Gratitude". Each day before going to sleep, sum up all the things that went well. And be thankful for them. Including the smile of a stranger passing by on the street. Start practicing this awareness on a daily basis.

And if, after 3 weeks, you do a retrospective, comparing your starting state with the state you are in and find that little has changed, I recommend the book:

And if this does not help - contact a professional, e.g. a coach. Her/his understanding, non-judgmental approach, but also wise assistance in this change can bring a long-lasting effect for you.

Empowerment Coaching Krakow Blog-Imposter syndrome-How to deal with it 2

(1) Harvey and Katz, If I’m So Successful, Why Do I Feel like a Fake? The Impostor Phenomenon, s. 3 [za:] Melanie Clark, Kimberly Vardeman, and Shelley Barba, Perceived Inadequacy: A Study of the Imposter Phenomenon among College and Research Librarians, „College & Research Libraries”, Vol 75, No 3, 2014.

See also:


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