Impostor syndrome is the feeling you get when you think you don’t deserve the accolades being accorded you, even when it is evident that you did the work. Impostor syndrome is psychological – it makes even the hardest of workers feel inadequate and like complete failures. Popular writer, Maya Angelou, admitted to sometimes feeling like her work didn’t deserve the amount of attention it was getting.

Impostor syndrome is not a disease, and isn’t always connected to depression, anxiety or self-esteem. It is a feeling that can be hard to shake off; hard but not impossible. Most times, we don’t even realise we have it. Here are some ways to know if you might be suffering from impostor syndrome:

  • You constantly feel like all your achievements were acquired by mere luck and that soon enough someone would realise this and oust you.
  • You undermine your experience. You say  or think you are not qualified for a job even after you have gone through the interview process and have been hired.
  • You find yourself devaluing your worth and sometimes, you hear yourself offering your services for a charge that is way less than they are worth or even in some cases, you offer them for free!

There are various ways impostor syndrome can manifest itself. Can you identify yourself in the below?

  • The Natural Genius: You are in this group if you have ever felt bad about not being able to achieve a desired goal or learn a new skill within a given period according to your “genius level” standards. You are probably used to not having to put a lot of effort into learning new things so when you find yourself struggling to learn something new, you start to feel ashamed and believe you are an impostor.
  • The Perfectionist: This group usually sets impossibly high expectations for themselves and when they are unable to meet them, they start to feel like they have had a major setback. Perfectionists might meet 99% of their goals and still beat themselves up for the 1% that wasn’t achieved.
  • The Soloist: If you ever feel you have failed if you have to ask for help, then you belong to this group. Soloists believe they should be able to accomplish a task all alone.
  • The Superman/Superwoman: They are always trying to work harder than everyone else to prove they are not impostors even to the detriment of their health.
  • The Experts: These are the “know it alls”. They are constantly looking for training and certification to improve their skills. The expert would not want to ask questions or give suggestions in a class for the fear of exposure. They are the ones that would not start a project or apply for a job unless they meet all the requirements and have all the information.

Thankfully, imposter syndrome can be dealt with. Here are five ways to deal it:

  • Talk about your feelings: The more you talk about it, the more you realise that other people go through the same thing, also, being able to put a name to it makes it easier to handle. Finding out that someone you admire or look up to has gone through a similar experience can help bring some sort of relief.
  • Mistakes happen: Perfectionism makes you want to excel at everything which can be a good way to thrive in your workplace or studies, but you need to understand that making mistakes is part of the process and you will never be 100% flawless.
  • Self-Validation: Train yourself to become more attuned to internal validation and reduce your addiction to external validation. Don’t give anyone other than yourself the power to make you feel better. You should be able to take constructive criticism seriously but not personally. Many people tend to forget the compliments and remember the criticism; learn to appreciate the compliments.
  • Reward yourself: Stop dismissing your efforts and learn to pat yourself on the back every now and again. Own your success and when you find yourself trying to explain it away or pinning it down on luck or teamwork, stop and say how proud you are of how much you have accomplished.
  • Start where you are: There is no perfect time. You need to know that there will never be a perfect time to start that project or apply for that job. The best time to start is now; don’t wait until you feel confident to put yourself out there. To be courageous, you have to be willing to take risks.

Everyone will go through a phase where they experience impostor syndrome. Realising that you suffer from the syndrome is usually the first step to overcoming it. Also remember, that mistakes are inevitable and failure doesn’t make you a fraud.


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