Are you among the many people who are stuck because they don’t believe in their own accomplishments? Do you feel that you will be ‘caught’ when someone realizes you really don’t know what you are doing? Do you tell yourself that you are not successful, or that the success you’ve had doesn’t count because it’s not real? Are you saying no to success? You are showing signs of the Imposter Syndrome.
According to Wikipedia, the Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder and is not among the conditions described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.
There was a time when it was felt that more women suffered from the Imposter Syndrome than men. Unfortunately, time has shown that no one is immune to these feelings. It happens to the writer, to professionals, to politicians, to tradesmen, and to housewives.
Remember when Sally Fields accepted the Oscar with a statement along the lines of, “You like me. You really, really like me! ” Yup. That’s a sign of that Imposter Syndrome. Aw, you say, she’s an actress, she doesn’t count. So how about Albert Einstein who said, “The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. ” Or Woodrow Wilson when he said, “I use not only all the brains I have but all that I can borrow. ”
What’s that I see? Are nodding your head? Are you an imposter? So am I. There are many of us who often feel that we don’t deserve the praise we receive. Like these highly successful people quoted above, we feel like a fake, despite our successes.
Where does it come from?
Perhaps you came from a home where your caregivers were hyper-critical. You know, the ones who looked at your grade card with four As and a B and focused on the B instead of congratulating your for a job well done. Or, you could have developed impossibly high standards, as in, if it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough. Then there’s luck. Sometimes luck seems to play a strong role in our lives. “I was just in the right place, at the right time.” And if it’s luck, then it can’t be because you worked hard to be in the right place at the right time, that you deserve it, can it?
We are certainly surrounded by things that are fake: false eyelashes, fake trees, fake grass, and more. There are fakes who are found out: a plagiarist, a doctored image, falsified documents, etc. Some of these have legal consequences. We sure don’t want to be in that group! So we hide our fears. And because we hide them from others, we often hide them from ourselves as well.
Signs of Imposter Thinking
What are signs you might be limiting yourself with imposter thinking?
- You diminish your accomplishments by saying something like ‘it wasn’t that big of a deal.’
- You quit your job soon after a promotion that you felt you didn’t deserve.
- You procrastinate on things to be done. If it isn’t done, then you can’t be ‘found out.’
- Insomnia and migraines have been called symptoms of imposter syndrome as well. (Though please, if you are having physical symptoms such as insomnia or migraines, seek medical attention to rule out other causes for those symptoms.)
- Finally, in extreme cases, there are some who take refuge in more destructive behaviors like addiction to alcohol or drugs.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
The next step is to name it. Recognize your ‘imposter’ behaviors and thinking.
Then begin replacing those scripts you’ve played over and over in your head. Realize that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. Take in those compliments. Stop the ‘yes, but’ parade. Replace it with a positive statement, “Even though she sold more books than I, I still sold a lot of books.” Focus on your strengths. When you finish a task, look at the strengths you used to bring this project to completion. And know that this isn’t a one-and-done type of thing. You’ll have to practice these new scripts many times.
You’ll find more tips on how to change your thinking in this gallery on How to Break Free from the Imposter Syndrome on Forbes.
Being an Imposter
Hello, my name is Lynette and I’m an imposter. Yes, I’ve felt like a fake most of my life. I tend to self-sabotage. It’s been a longtime habit that I’ve struggled to overcome. I thought I’d done pretty well, until recently when I realized I would not make my writing goals — again.
Then I realized, reaching my writing goals means that I’d have to put my work out there for someone else to read. Scary stuff. Someone might read it and not like it. I know the cure for this one: do not care what someone else thinks. That’s hard for me. I want so badly to be liked.
Whew. That paragraph was hard to write. And because it’s so hard, I’m going to leave it in. I’m not leaving it in as a plea for you to comment and say you like me. I’m leaving it in because it was hard for me. That need, that fear that I won’t be liked because I’m just not good enough, is an eternal struggle for me. Feeling that way is a reminder for me to take off the fear glasses I sometimes use to look at myself and my accomplishments. When I take off the fear glasses and put on the fact glasses to examine what I’ve done, I know I am good enough. You can know it, too. Take off your fear glasses. Face the Imposter Syndrome head-on.
Are there areas of your life where you feel like an imposter? Are you saying no to success? How do you combat it? I am so glad you’re here. Thank you for stopping by. And if you take the extra time to post a thoughtful comment, I thank you even more deeply.