Impostor Syndrome & Everything You Need To Know About It

Atmaj Vyas , 19 Jul 2018
Impostor Syndrome (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Impostor Syndrome (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

Have you ever achieved something really great but deep down, felt like you don’t deserve it or like a fraud? Well, the scientific term for something like that is called “Impostor Syndrome”. So what is impostor syndrome? As stated by Wikipedia, it is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their own accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. In chapter 6 of her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Valerie Young, who has researched this topic for decades, classifies imposter syndrome into 5 competence types. Here are our takeaways from her study:

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionist (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Perfectionist (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

A perfectionist is a person who is not content with anything unless it is of the highest possible quality. They set extremely high goals for themselves and if they fall short of achieving their goals, they tend to go into a downward spiral. This is usually filled with self-doubt and fear. Oftentimes, even their success isn’t something they prefer to celebrate because for them it’s usually not good enough. This kind of thought process is something that is bound to take a toll your health and mental well being eventually.

How to get past it: In life, it is always important to learn from your mistakes. Each mistake has its own unique teaching moment that can help you grow as an individual. We as humans will always falter so trying to live up to an obscure idea of perfection is something we need to get over. We can all strive to be better but it is essential to remember that if all you do is chase perfection, you’re going to miss out on other important things in life. Make mistakes and learn from them!

2. The Superwoman/man

Superwoman (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Superwoman (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

People who experience this are usually the ones who think they need to overcompensate by overburdening themselves with work, in order to match-up to those around them. Often times, they are struggling with something internal, which is why they usually turn to external sources that can help validate them and notice their hard work. If you constantly overwork yourself, you are bound to burn out. There is no amount of validation that is worth sacrificing your own mental health and happiness for.

How to get past it: From what is explained in the book, it is clear that these type of people lack inner confidence. They have a constant need and want to overcompensate because of feeling inadequate. You need to realise that in seeking validation, you’re giving up a lot more than you actually gain. Know your limits and draw your boundaries. Work on finding yourself and building your confidence. We already live a fast-paced life, learn to know when to pick up the pace and when to slow it down.

3. The Natural Genius

Genius (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Genius (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

Being a genius isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s something many of us would love to be. However, the problem starts arising when you feel that all you need to succeed in life are your abilities as opposed to putting in the hard work as well. Usually, people like this assume that the second they need to start working hard for something, it means they are bad at it. In the past, they were accustomed to being able to get things done with just their abilities. If you look carefully, you will notice a lot of similarities between them and perfectionists, in the sense that they both have extremely high expectations of themselves.

How to get past it: You need to remember that there is a fine line between aiming high and setting yourself up for failure. While having the abilities and skills required are great, you cannot accomplish anything without putting in the hard work required. While you shouldn’t underestimate yourself, it’s important not to overestimate either.

4. The Rugged Individualist

Individualist (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Individualist (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

Sometimes, things can become a lot for just one person to handle. While a lot of people look to colleagues and others for help, the rugged individualist is one who prefers to not seek assistance. For them, they think that asking for help can be misconstrued as a sign of weakness to others. They have an immense sense and need to be individualistic and this, in turn, shuts them off from others around them.

How to get past it: While acomplishing things on your own merit will feel great, it is important to remember that not everything can be accomplished alone. There are going to be times when you have your back against a wall and you’re going to need help to get out from there. Asking people for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you know your limits and have room for growth, which is something that people will always appreciate. No person can shoulder all the weight alone, so share the burden and you will start to see a change in your mental space as well.

5. The Expert

Expert (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Expert (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

As per Young, the last type of person in this list is the expert. They are the type of person who constantly feels like they are deceiving people around them, by letting on more than they actually know. The truth is, even if they do have the knowledge and skills to back up what they are doing, they feel like they don’t and that others might notice this about them. They often think that they are inexperienced and incompetent. They tend to have a lot of similarities with the individualist, in the sense that they also struggle to ask for help from others. While their fears of being exposed as weak or inept are similar, their workings are different from each other.

How to get past it: One of the greatest things about life is the ability to keep on learning. You are presented with ample opportunities and each one of them has a new lesson to learn. Understand how much you know and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then try to work on making yourself better, all while keeping yourself open to learning new things. Remember that there is no shame in asking for help! So don’t shy away from assistance or opportunities that can help you grow.

I Can (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
I Can (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

It’s time we embrace our flaws and not be embarrassed about it. There are so many opportunities in life that will come which can teach you things you never even knew you could learn. Be open to them and most of all, always be proud of everything you accomplish.

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