In a world motivated by desire and accomplishment, where successes are celebrated and success stories abound, there is a silent foe that haunts many people's minds: the imposter syndrome. This psychological phenomenon emerges from the depths of self-doubt, shattering the illusion of confidence and competence, leaving high achievers questioning their self-worth and fearing discovery as frauds. As society continues to laud and compare individuals' achievements, imposter syndrome remains a constant challenge, reminding us that beneath the masks of success are complicated webs of uneasiness and dread. Today, we explore the profound impact of impostor syndrome, providing light on its causes, impacts, and coping mechanisms as we strive for genuine self-acceptance in a world of self-doubt.
So, what is this “Impostor Syndrome” anyway? American Psychological Association defines it as “a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, and incompetence despite evidence that you are skilled and successful” (“Overcoming”). The term was first put out by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s; however, one may say it is old as the human race. Impostor syndrome is the question you ask yourself when doubting your capacity. Questions like “Why would they choose me?” in a job interview or “Why did I think I would be capable enough to do this?” while doing a task. Impostor syndrome is the things you did not accomplish due to doubt of your strength, whether it be a test or a project. Basically, it is the obstacles you put yourself through on the path of accomplishing something you are well enough capable of accomplishing: you and millions of people.
In a study conducted in 2020 by Bravata et al., it was found that almost 82% of people face feelings of impostor syndrome, meaning they are struggling with the sense they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved and are a “fraud”. Especially people with the greatest expectations of themselves, the so-called “high achievers”, are more understood to carry this syndrome in their every single step with them, the constant fear and anxiety of being “unmasked” because deep inside they are not actually capable of their valuable successes according to their beliefs.
In her 2011 book "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It," Dr. Valerie Young, a prominent researcher on impostor syndrome, outlines the existence of five distinct types of individuals dealing with impostor syndrome (“You’re Not”). Dr. Young refers to these groupings as competence types because they represent an individual's personal perceptions about competence. Let's dig deeper into each category to see how they appear and affect people's lives.
The Perfectionist: This personality type is obsessed with how things are completed and is generally striving for perfection in all aspects of life. However, because perfection is rarely attained, meeting such unyielding standards becomes impossible. Instead of appreciating their efforts and achievements, they tend to berate themselves for little mistakes, leading to emotions of guilt and self-criticism. In severe circumstances, they may even avoid new possibilities out of dread of being unable to execute flawlessly.
The Natural Genius: Individuals of this type have readily mastered many talents throughout their lives, allowing them to expect rapid grasp and mastery of new concepts and processes. When confronted with problems or disappointments, they regard themselves as imposters and experience feelings of fraudulence. When they struggle with a task or fail to achieve instant success, they may experience feelings of guilt and embarrassment, damaging their self-confidence.
The Rugged Individualist (or Soloist): This personality type believes they should be able to handle any issues independently. Seeking or accepting aid is considered as an acknowledgment of personal inferiority and failure, as well as a break from their high ideals. As a result, individuals are more likely to face duties alone, dreading the judgment that may result from getting help.
The Expert: Individuals in this category believe they must have extensive professional expertise before considering themselves successful. Their relentless quest of information frequently occupies a significant amount of time, diverting their attention away from important activities. When confronted with unresolved issues or previously neglected knowledge, individuals are prone to brand themselves as impostors or failures, lowering the value of their own expertise.
The Superhero: This personality type bases its sense of competence on its capacity to excel in numerous positions, such as students, friends, employees, or parents. Failure to meet the expectations of these jobs is interpreted as evidence of personal inadequacy. They exhaust themselves by exerting utmost effort in each discipline, striving for perfection. However, their tireless efforts may not erase their emotions of being imposters, as they always question whether they should be doing more or finding simpler jobs.
Understanding the various sorts of imposter experiences is critical to uncovering the subtle ways in which high-achieving people display self-doubt and dread of being exposed as frauds. We can begin to overcome these patterns by acknowledging and addressing them.
Overcoming impostor syndrome requires a shift in thinking about one's talents, admitting knowledge and accomplishments, and accepting one's place in academic or professional contexts. It is critical to concentrate on one's own accomplishments rather than comparing oneself to others. Those who suffer from impostorism frequently put enormous pressure on themselves to reach perfection, believing that any misstep will expose their inadequacies. Breaking the pattern requires accepting that perfection is unattainable and that one can only strive for one's personal best. In addition, one of the essential parts of the recovery process is the normalization and a greater understanding of the syndrome in a way that is able to distinguish between the actual challenges and the challenges set out by oneself. The world is already full of challenges, ups and downs, and great down-bringings. One must be a company to oneself in order to survive in today’s world. Overcoming this phenomenon is an important step for you to make in order to enjoy life a bit more and be overwhelmed with the joy of your accomplishments, whether big or small.
Edited by Bilge Öztürk
"Imposter Syndrome." Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome.
Palmer, Chris. "How to overcome impostor phenomenon." American Psychological Association, 1 June 2021, www.apa.org/monitor/2021/06/cover-impostor-phenomenon.
Robinson, Andrea. "Overcoming imposter syndrome." American Psychological Association, www.apadivisions.org/division-28/publications/newsletters/psychopharmacology/2017/11/imposter-syndrome#:~:text=Imposter syndrome is a pervasive,Imes in the 1970s1.
Saripalli, Vara. "You're Not a Fraud. Here's How to Recognize and Overcome Imposter Syndrome." Healthline, 16 Apr. 2021, www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/imposter-syndrome.