Imposter Syndrome: What Is And How To Overcome? - Peter Boolkah

Have you ever felt like you’re just faking it, and one of these days, everyone will find out? Well, you’re not alone. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern where people doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as a ‘fraud’. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to control your life.

Stick around as we dive into what Imposter Syndrome is and how we can navigate it. Let’s get this conversation started!

Imposter Syndrome - Peter Boolkah

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome (also known as Imposter Phenomenon or Fraud Syndrome) is a psychological pattern in which individuals doubt their successes and fear being exposed as a “fraud”. It was first identified by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

This phenomenon can affect anyone, regardless of their actual level of competence or expertise. Impostor syndrome can lead to feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and a constant fear of being “found out” by others. It can also hinder one’s ability to take on new challenges or pursue opportunities due to the belief that they will inevitably fail.

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What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is rooted in feelings of self-doubt and incompetence despite evidence of success or recognition from others. It can hurt career development, as those who suffer from it may be hesitant to take on new projects or roles, which can stunt their growth and limit their opportunities for advancement.

The exact cause of Imposter Syndrome is still unknown, though it has been suggested that a combination of environmental and internal factors may be to blame. Environmental factors such as having an overly critical parent or teacher could contribute to feelings of inadequacy in someone’s early life. In contrast, internal factors such as low self-confidence or perfectionism could contribute to the onset of Imposter Syndrome in adulthood.

Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

Signs of imposter syndrome include feeling like you are inadequate or unworthy of praise, thinking that your success is the result of luck, and feeling like you must work harder than everyone else to prove yourself competent. It can be a tricky pattern to break since it’s rooted in deep-seated insecurity.

Unfortunately, having imposter syndrome can prevent individuals from reaching their full potential. They may become so overwhelmed with self-doubt that they avoid opportunities for success or refuse to acknowledge their accomplishments.

If you think you may suffer from imposter syndrome, don’t worry—you’re not alone! Reach out to a friend or therapist who can help break the pattern and restore self-confidence. You can overcome this common but damaging issue by recognizing the signs of imposter syndrome and taking steps to address it.

If you’re a manager or mentor to those with imposter syndrome, listening to and validating their experiences is an important first step. Encourage them to take small steps towards conquering their fear of failure, such as setting achievable goals or taking on more responsibility in the workplace. Additionally, remind them to give themselves credit for their successes and focus on the positive rather than the negative.

The 5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionists, driven by an unquenchable thirst for success, often struggle to find true validation in their accomplishments. They relentlessly chase perfection, setting lofty expectations and goals that seem out of reach.

Take, for instance, the common scenario of attempting to effortlessly balance a career, family, and other responsibilities without ever feeling overwhelmed. It’s a constant battle against self-imposed ideals and the nagging feeling of falling short. The result? A whirlwind of guilt, shame, and a persistent sense of inadequacy.

But here’s the thing: perfection is an illusion, and the pursuit of it can be exhausting. Embracing imperfections and finding contentment in progress, however small, can lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life. It’s time to let go of unrealistic expectations and embrace the beauty of being perfectly imperfect.

2. The Natural Genius

Imposter Syndrome can take on the form of “The Natural Genius.” These high-achieving individuals believe they possess innate talents and abilities, exempting them from the need to exert effort to achieve greatness.

Research has unveiled that this mindset leads to a sense of unworthiness and hampers personal growth. Pauline Rose Clance, a psychologist specializing in imposter syndrome, defines this syndrome as: “a continuous pattern of behavior characterized by the belief that one is superior to others without objective evidence or external validation.”

“The Natural Genius” convinces individuals that they are exceptional and possess an extraordinary talent in their field. Instead of acknowledging their hard work and dedication, they may feel smug and superior to those who do not share the same level of ability.

This mindset can trigger intense anxiety when faced with tasks or responsibilities, as “The Natural Genius” believes they should effortlessly conquer any challenge. This imposter syndrome encourages individuals to rely solely on their talent and avoid stepping out of their comfort zone.

3. The Superwoman/Man

The Superwoman/Man Syndrome captures the struggle of successful women and men who constantly strive to prove their worth and push themselves to the limits in order to maintain a sense of competence. It’s a battle that goes beyond external pressures, as they relentlessly push themselves from within, never feeling good enough to truly succeed.

This syndrome often takes hold of those who pursue perfection in every aspect of their lives, being excessively hard on themselves when they fall short. It’s like an impostor syndrome, leaving them feeling like frauds who don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved. The consequences can be severe, hindering their well-being, and it’s crucial to recognize the signs and seek support.

Imagine a stay-at-home parent who wears multiple hats, bearing the weight of their household’s responsibilities. They put immense pressure on themselves to maintain perfection in every role they play – be it a flawless parent, a faultless spouse, or an impeccable employee. Yet, this pursuit of perfection often leads to overwhelming feelings and eventual burnout.

4. The Soloist

The Soloist is like a stealthy intruder, constantly whispering in the individual’s ear that they don’t belong in their position or field, despite clear evidence of their competence. These talented souls tend to downplay their achievements, attributing them to mere luck or external factors, rather than acknowledging their own abilities and hard work. Imagine a triumphant entrepreneur, who, despite building a thriving business from scratch, secretly feels like an impostor, dreading the day when others will uncover their perceived lack of skills. The Soloist often embraces solitude, mistakenly believing that seeking help is a sign of weakness, which only reinforces their fraudulent feelings when they eventually need assistance.

Sometimes, this impostor phenomenon is fueled by a fear of failure or an insatiable quest for perfection, so intense that it hinders taking risks or accepting constructive criticism. Consequently, Soloists may isolate themselves from their peers, fostering an atmosphere of mistrust in the workplace.

5. The Expert

The Expert is a manifestation of imposter syndrome, where individuals find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of learning, never feeling competent enough. They set exceedingly high expectations for themselves and are plagued by a fear of success.

Despite possessing a vast amount of knowledge in their field, they consistently underestimate their own capabilities, convinced that they must always strive for more. They constantly feel as though they are deceiving others with their abilities, hence the term “impostorism”. For instance, consider a professor who possesses a wealth of knowledge, has published numerous papers, and is highly regarded by their peers.

Even in light of these accomplishments, they may still experience feelings of fraudulence, constantly anxious that they will eventually be exposed as incompetents. This fear and feelings of impostorism impede their ability to acknowledge and appreciate their own success, as well as maintain the high standards they set for their work.

Individuals afflicted with imposter syndrome often exhibit perfectionistic tendencies, fixating on details and seldom considering their work complete. Furthermore, they are excessively critical of themselves and rarely give themselves credit for their achievements.

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The Additional Types of Imposter Syndrome

The Discounter

The Discounter is a common manifestation of Imposter Syndrome, where individuals tend to downplay their achievements by attributing success to luck or external factors rather than their own abilities or hard work.

Even after completing tasks successfully, they constantly second-guess themselves and question whether they truly deserve the recognition they receive. For example, if a Discounter is praised for a well-executed presentation, they might dismiss it, saying, “Oh, it was nothing. Anyone could have done it.” This continuous undermining of their accomplishments breeds self-doubt and anxiety, ultimately undermining their self-confidence.

The Noticer

The Noticer is one type of impostor syndrome that individuals may experience. It involves being hyper-aware of everything happening around you and constantly comparing yourself unfavorably to others. It’s like having a spotlight constantly shining on everyone else’s accomplishments while completely overlooking your own. For instance, you might see a colleague receiving praise for a well-executed project and immediately think, “They’re so much better at this job than I am,” even if you just completed a successful project yourself. Breaking free from this cycle can be challenging, but the first step is recognizing it.

This form of impostor syndrome is often associated with perfectionism and can be particularly detrimental. Perfectionists strive for flawless execution in all tasks, leaving no room for error or imperfection. This creates an environment where it feels impossible to “succeed” or meet the standards they have set for themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy and the belief that they are a fraud.

11 Ways How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. Write Down Your Goals

Writing down your goals can be a real game-changer when overcoming imposter syndrome. When you put pen to paper, you’re not just dreaming; you’re doing. You’re creating a tangible record of your aspirations that you can refer back to, reminding yourself of what you’re capable of.

Having your written goals means having a roadmap to your success, which can help squash those pesky imposter syndrome feelings. It’s like saying to yourself, “Hey, I’ve got plans, and I’m working towards them. I’m no imposter; I’m the real deal.”

2. Assess the Evidence

Assessing the evidence can be a game changer when kicking imposter syndrome to the curb. When we feel like a fraud, our brain often overlooks our accomplishments and focuses only on our mistakes. That’s where the evidence comes in.

By taking a moment to evaluate our past successes, we can remind ourselves of the hard work, skills, and experience we’ve accumulated. This isn’t about getting cocky; it’s about grounding ourselves in reality and realizing that we deserve to be where we are. After all, the evidence doesn’t lie!

3. Refocus on Values

You know what? We’ve all had those days where we feel like we’re just winging it. Like, we’re not qualified for the job or the task at hand, and everyone will find out sooner or later. That’s what they call the imposter syndrome. But here’s a little secret to tackle that—refocus on your values.

Honestly, it works like a charm! Instead of dwelling on your insecurities or perceived incompetencies, focus on what matters—your core values. Those values have guided you this far and will continue to lead you. Trust in them and yourself, and you’ll see that imposter syndrome disappears. It’s all about perspective.

4. Reframe Around Growth

As we know, Imposter syndrome can be a real drag, right? It’s that nagging feeling that, no matter how much you’ve achieved, you’re still not good enough, and everyone is just moments away from figuring it out. Sounds familiar? Well, here’s a little secret: A simple shift in perspective can make a world of difference. Instead of focusing on perfection and fearing failure, try embracing the concept of growth.

See every challenge as an opportunity for personal and professional development. After all, every expert was once a beginner, and every winner has experienced loss. So next time the imposter syndrome tries to creep in, remember – you’re not an imposter; you’re a work in progress, and that’s perfectly okay.

5. Get Out of Your Head

Getting out of your head can work wonders when you try to overcome or prevent Imposter Syndrome. You know what we’re talking about here, right? That sneaky little voice in your head that keeps telling you that you’re not good enough or that you’ve only gotten where you are by sheer luck. Well, guess what? That’s not true. Seriously, try stepping out from that mindset for a second.

Look at your achievements objectively, like you’re looking at a friend’s accomplishments. You’ll realize how much you’ve achieved. It’s all you, buddy– nothing to do with luck. So, next time that little voice starts whispering remember to step outside your head and look at the bigger picture. And remember, you got this.

6. Be Kind to Yourself

Being kind to yourself isn’t just about patting yourself on the back. It’s about genuinely treating yourself with the same compassion you’d show a good friend. Cut yourself slack when things go awry – it’s okay to make mistakes; that’s how we learn and grow, right? Take breaks when you need them without feeling guilty. Your productivity isn’t worth it; you’re so much more than that.

And remember to celebrate your victories, no matter how small they may seem. They’re steps in the right direction, and they deserve recognition. So, be your cheerleader, friend, and mentor. Trust me, you’ll feel a world of difference.

look at your achievements objectively

7. Practice Self-Compassion

It’s all about being kind to yourself. Just like you’d tell a friend who’s feeling down, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect, and it’s okay to have off days. You are enough just as you are. So next time the imposter syndrome gremlins start whispering in your ear, give yourself a big ol’ mental hug.

8. Keep Failure in Perspective

So, let’s dig a little deeper into this, keeping failure in perspective. The deal is failure isn’t the big bad wolf it’s often made out to be. It’s just a stepping stone, a lesson learned. It’s like falling off your bike when you’re learning to ride. Yeah, it stings a bit, but you dust yourself off and jump right back on, right? That’s because you know the fall isn’t a sign you’re bad at cycling; it’s just part of learning how to balance.

The same goes for any bump in the road you face in life. Don’t let it define you; let it refine you. Remember, it’s all part of the ride, and you’re doing a great job navigating. Keep pedalling!

9. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is like a secret weapon when it comes to tackling Imposter Syndrome. It’s all about staying present, aware, and grounded in the here and now. Too often, our minds wander into self-doubt and overanalysis, which fuels Imposter Syndrome. So, next time you start wondering if you’re a fraud or not good enough, just pause.

Take a deep breath. Notice the physical world around you – what you can see, hear, touch, or smell. Shifting attention to your senses helps anchor you in the present moment, pushing out those impostor feelings. Remember, you’re here because you’ve earned it.

10. Seek Trusted Feedback From Your Network

Let’s dive deeper into seeking feedback from your trusted network, shall we? This isn’t about getting a pat on the back or fishing for compliments. No, it’s about gaining an outside perspective on your achievements. You’re too close to your journey to see the big picture sometimes. Think of it like this: your friends, family, and mentors are all standing on the sidelines watching you in the game.

They can see the touchdowns you’re scoring that you might have overlooked. So go ahead, ask them. What are they seeing that you’re not? You might be surprised to find out how much you’re killing it.

11. Learn New Things

When you learn something new, you broaden your horizons and deepen your knowledge pool, giving you more confidence in your abilities. Pick a book, take an online course, or join a workshop. Seek out mentors, ask questions, and take on new challenges. And remember, it’s OK to make mistakes. That’s how you learn, grow, and prove that you can do this. You’re not an imposter; you have a lot to learn.

Here’s the thing: When you know more, you worry less. So keep learning; it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. There are so many opportunities out there—so go for it! You don’t have to be perfect, but by growing and evolving in your field, you’ll see that it’s all part of the journey. It’s never too late to become the expert you strive to be.

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Bias and Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a sneaky beast. It can creep up during a meeting, disrupting your thoughts with whispers like, “You don’t belong here” or “Everyone else is smarter than you.” Even when you’ve just nailed a big presentation, it is, again, whispering, “You just got lucky this time.”

For example, consider a software engineer; let’s call her Jane. Jane has just been promoted to a senior position due to her hard work and the successful projects she’s led. However, instead of feeling accomplished, she’s plagued with thoughts like “Did they promote me by mistake?” or “I’m not as good as they think I am.” Imposter Syndrome in action is the persistent inability to believe one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved.

Bias can also feed into this. If Jane is the only woman in her team, she might experience unconscious bias from her colleagues, who (without intending to) might question her abilities just because of her gender. This can intensify Jane’s feelings of being an imposter and make her question her worth even more.

We need to remember that these feelings of self-doubt don’t reflect our actual abilities or achievements. They’re just fears, fears that we need to recognize and manage. And knowing that it’s a shared experience can be a big help.


The Prevalence of Imposter Syndrome and Why It Matters

Imposter syndrome isn’t just a personal issue; it can also have real business implications. For instance, an employee dealing with imposter syndrome may constantly second-guess their decisions, ultimately slowing down productivity. They might also be less likely to put forth innovative ideas or take on new challenges out of fear they aren’t ‘good enough’.

As a business owner, I’ve seen brilliant minds hold themselves back due to imposter syndrome. For instance, one of my most talented project managers would constantly doubt her abilities despite delivering exceptional results consistently. Such self-doubt can stifle growth – both at the individual and organizational level. Therefore, it is crucial to create a supportive environment where employees feel valued and confident in their abilities.

Consider providing coaching, mentorship, and helpful feedback, to help employees build their self-esteem and foster a culture of trust. This will not only empower individuals to reach their full potential but also boost overall productivity in the workplace.

A key component of managing imposter syndrome is open and honest communication. Encourage your team members to speak up about any doubts they may be having and provide practical solutions. For instance, you can create a goal-setting framework that breaks down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This will help them stay on track and focus on celebrating their successes along the way.

Additionally, try to build a culture of collaboration, encourage team members to share ideas openly, and offer constructive feedback in an empathetic manner.

With the right strategies in place, employees can develop meaningful relationships with their peers and leadership teams and work together to push the boundaries of innovation. This, in turn, can drive meaningful growth for the organization and individual employees.


Is imposter syndrome or anxiety?

While they might seem similar, Imposter syndrome and anxiety are different. Imposter syndrome is that nagging feeling that you don’t belong, as you’ve somehow tricked everyone into thinking you’re more competent than you are. You’re constantly worried that people will figure out you’re a fraud any minute now. Conversely, anxiety is a more general feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Sometimes, these two can overlap, and it’s always a good idea to chat with a mental health professional if you’re overwhelmed.

The good news is you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome affects up to 70% of people at some point. The best way to combat it is to talk about it and recognize that everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. Keeping a support network of friends or family members who understand what you’re going through can be helpful, and having someone who will listen without judgment can be a huge relief.

What does imposter syndrome feel like?

Imposter Syndrome can feel like you’re a fraud as if you’ve just been winging it, and any minute now, everyone will realize you’re not as competent as they think you are. That nagging feeling makes you doubt your accomplishments, even when you’ve clearly earned them. In a group of intelligent, talented people, you might feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t belong like you’ve somehow fooled everyone else into thinking you’re just as competent. It’s like being stuck in a mental loop of second-guessing yourself, which can be draining.

The truth is, nobody’s perfect. We all have our areas of strength and weaknesses, and it’s perfectly normal to feel like an imposter sometimes. It’s important to remember that everyone feels the same way from time to time. So, rather than ignoring these feelings or pretending they don’t exist, try talking about them with someone you trust – a friend, family member, or even a professional. It can help to have an outside perspective on the situation and remind you of all your successes.

What is an example of imposter syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome can creep up in various scenarios. Here’s a classic example: Imagine you just landed your dream job. Instead of celebrating, you’re filled with dread that they hired the wrong person.

Despite your impressive resume and the hard work you put in to get here, you’re convinced they made a mistake. You’re constantly worried that any day now, your colleagues will realize you’re not as competent as they initially thought. That, my friend, is a textbook case of Imposter Syndrome.

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