“Even though I had sold 70 Million albums, there I was feeling like, I’m no good at this” - Jennifer Lopez
Have you ever felt a constant fear of being unmasked, or felt inadequate and undeserving of your achievements? If yes, then you are not alone! According to research most of us (70% of people) feel like a fraud or an ‘imposter’ at some point in our life, and this phenomenon is termed as ‘Imposter Syndrome'.
This feeling of fighting a persistent internal battle where you question your competency first came into light in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Although at that time they theorized that it is uniquely found in women, later research on the same topic revealed that irrespective of gender, anyone can experience imposter feelings. But it can’t be denied that particularly women often end up scrutinizing every single thing they do and make themselves believe that their accomplishments are the result of serendipitous luck.
Sifra Solomon, a young fashion designer shared her struggles with Imposter Syndrome- “I find it very difficult to cope with Imposter syndrome from a professional point of view and a personal point of view. I keep doubting myself all the time because I feel whatever I have achieved I got it by fluke and not because I worked hard for it. I have missed many opportunities in my life just because I felt I didn't deserve them. I need constant reassurance from people close to me to get by. But I am trying to work on it every day!”
Do you feel like an imposter too?
Chances are you might be feeling like one but you don’t have an idea of it. If you are experiencing the Imposter feelings, you must identify the category, to solve the problem. Expert of Imposter Syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young, found patterns in people who experience this syndrome and categorized them into subgroups-
The PerfectionistIf you feel like your work should be 100% perfect 24x7, then you fall in the category of a perfectionist. People in this category set excessively high goals and when fail to reach the outcome, they doubt their competency. They never feel satisfied and think that they could have done the job better. But that’s the thing about human psychology, the thirst for success is never satiated. It’s important to celebrate and own achievements to avoid burnout.
The SuperwomanThose who convinced themselves of being an imposter, often work harder and harder to measure up to their colleagues. They push themselves to the edge which harms their mental health. If you find yourself working late in the office or get anxious when you are not working, then it’s your clue to recognize the problem. You need to take time out for yourself and your family apart from work. Stop seeking validation from others, believe in yourself.
The Natural Genius“I remember during my childhood I was frequently reminded of being the “smart one” in the family. I had a good track record of getting straight A’s in almost everything that I did. But my confidence took a tumble when I faced some setbacks, I felt ashamed of my failures and started doubting all my past achievements” says Aditi Singh, a budding writer. If you are feeling the same way, then this category applies to you as well! To overcome this, see yourself as a ‘work in progress’. See the failures as a learning process and don’t beat yourself to achieve the best in your first attempt.
The SoloistThe sufferers of this category, feel that they would be exposed as a fraud if they ask for help. Common in young people, the soloist refuses assistance from others to prove themselves. Although it’s great to be an independent individual, one should not fear the idea of taking someone’s help. The idea of perfection is flawed, an individual can’t be best in everything. It’s okay to reach out for help whenever needed.
The ExpertDo you ever feel that you only have surface knowledge and you will never know enough? The Expert category of Imposter Syndrome measures their competence based on the depth of their knowledge. They fear that they might get exposed as an unknowledgeable person. It is important to understand that we live in an unimaginably vast universe and it is nearly impossible to know everything under the sun. Indeed, there is always more to learn, but endlessly seeking more information can be harmful and might lead to procrastination.
“When I won the Oscar, I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back” - Jodie Foster
No matter what category you fall in, just remember that you are not alone in this and it is completely normal. You should not feel ashamed in reaching out for help, it takes courage to stand up for yourself. You can overcome the imposter feelings by acknowledging your thoughts and putting them in perspective. It’s always good to share your feelings with close friends and mentors.
Lastly, don’t let your doubts control your actions, it’s normal to have setbacks once in a while but don’t let the failures doubt your achievements and competency.