How to Identify and Overcome Impostor Syndrome


Different media broadcast the image of the ideal person every day, silent about stress and mistakes. Against this background, we often feel imperfect and feel like impostors, unworthy of our achievements.

What is impostor syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon when a person believes that his achievements are a coincidence of circumstances, and not the result of his own efforts. Such people attribute success to luck and think that they do not really deserve success. Another person is afraid of being exposed. If others realize that he was just lucky, they will decide that he is incompetent, they will be disappointed and condemned.

“Imposters” feel like cheaters, but at the same time they know that they are not. A paradox arises: on the one hand, a person believes that he was lucky, but on the other hand, he knows how much he tried. So there is a constant internal conflict between self-confidence and doubt.

Causes of impostor syndrome

Imposter syndrome is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a pattern of thought behind which are different mechanisms formed in childhood or adolescence. Therefore, it is better to work them out separately than to deal with the syndrome itself.

Family atmosphere. Parents could compare the child with classmates or set an example of successful brothers or sisters, to which he needs to grow up, justifying the expectations of his parents. Or vice versa, the child was often praised, but with age, he understands that achievements are difficult, and therefore he is not as good as the family thought.

Minority affiliation. A person could suffer from various forms of discrimination and social inequality on national, gender or racial grounds, and therefore cannot adequately evaluate himself.

perfectionism. Such people set inflated goals, and even if they almost achieve them, but make mistakes along the way, they begin to doubt their abilities.

Fear of success. Even when a person is considered an expert, he may not take on a new project for fear of making a mistake and looking stupid. After all, if he does something wrong, everyone will see that he does not correspond to his level.

Fear of attention. Such behavior may be due to the comments of parents and stereotypes such as “keep your head down”, fear of envious people and enemies, as well as an irrational fear of damage, the evil eye, etc.

Total leadership. When a person is used to doing everything himself, he does not want to ask for help, because others will think that he is insolvent.

superman / superwoman. These people always try to confirm professionalism by working more than others. When something does not work out, they begin to doubt themselves and think that they are not competent enough.

Signs of impostor syndrome

impostor syndrome symptoms

To find out how much you suffer from the syndrome, you can take a test from psychologist Paulina Klance, who, together with her colleague Suzanne Imes, coined the term “imposter phenomenon” for the first time. Below we have written out some theses from the test. They will help you compare your emotions with the main signs that indicate this syndrome.

  • You think you can give the impression of a more competent employee than you really are.
  • Avoid judgment and feel uncomfortable when others praise you.
  • When people praise you, you are afraid that you will not be able to live up to expectations.
  • Sometimes you think you’ve been successful because you were in the right place at the right time, or because you just knew the right people.
  • Afraid that those close to you will discover that you are not as capable as they think.
  • You worry for a long time about those cases when you didn’t do your best.
  • Sometimes it seems to you that your success is some kind of mistake, accident or luck.
  • At times you are disappointed in your achievements and think that you should have achieved more.
  • You are afraid that you will not cope with the new task, although you usually do your job well.
  • When you receive praise, you are afraid that you will not be able to repeat the success next time.
  • Compare yourself to others and think that they can be better than you.
  • You feel bad if you realize that in a particular situation you are not “best” or “special”.

How to Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome

how to deal with impostor syndrome

If you have a healthy dose of self-criticism, that’s fine. Self-doubt is okay, but only when it doesn’t turn into an obsessive fear of failure that makes you unsure of yourself: “I got lucky again. But next time it won’t happen, and everyone will know that I’m worthless.”

If you sometimes have such attacks, you can manage them with the help of these tips. In more severe cases, it is better to consult a psychologist.

When choosing a psychologist, pay attention to the education and qualifications of a specialist. Online psychologist selection service PsyChat gives you the opportunity to get the first 20 minutes of a consultation with a professional psychologist for free.

1. Keep a personal diary

Write down emotions during attacks: shame, anxiety, insecurity. This will help track when and how unpleasant feelings arise inside.

2. Write down your accomplishments

Write down achievements, marking big and small victories. Here you can also make a column of your strengths and weaknesses. First, it will help you understand how much good you are. Secondly, you can focus not on how to correct shortcomings, but on how to improve the skills in which you already excel.

3. Try to determine why you are an impostor

In the diary, you can try to prove that you are an impostor. Start writing down the facts that come to mind, and then remove those that are related only to your emotions. You will see that there are practically no real arguments left.

4. Get angry

If you feel that you are having bouts of the syndrome, get really angry, but not at yourself or others, but at this phenomenon. Having given freedom to anger, you can realize that no one and nothing in the world can decide for you whether you are worthy of your place or not: “Who is this syndrome to dictate to me that I do not deserve my success?”

5. Give up illusions

The next step is to understand that the syndrome is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. Your opinion is not based on exact facts. This is just a subjective inner voice that does not affect the quality of your work, which means that you can fight it.

6. Try to take it easy on compliments.

When kind words are spoken to you, don’t downplay or deny them. The best reaction is to just say “Thank you” and smile.

7. Lower the bar

Some tasks do not require supernatural solutions: it is enough to make them “good”, not “excellent”. Moreover, others do not expect perfect performance from you, they only need what you promise. So lower the bar from “I will be the best” to “I will do what I promised.”

8. Define the range of your abilities

As you complete tasks one after the other, the expectations of your work can rise. This will start to put pressure on you and make you doubt yourself. Therefore, try to identify the circle of your possibilities in time.

Do not refuse the authorities, but simply offer an alternative and indicate what you can handle and what else you can’t. For example: “I will not be able to calculate the cost of this project for six months at once. Let’s bring in accountants, and I’ll have more time to develop a sales plan.”

9. Focus on yourself

Many people with impostor syndrome think that they are not smart enough and will not be able to develop intelligence. This happens because they obsess over the opinions of others. You can constantly think “How to make sure that I am not exposed?”, Or you can put the question differently: “How can I become more confident and express myself to the fullest?”.

Start pumping skills or engage in self-improvement. The main thing is that by doing so you acknowledge: “I’m not perfect, but I know how to become better.”

10. Seek support

Sometimes we do not even think that others appreciate us for some qualities or achievements. Therefore, ask close people to write 5-7 things for which they respect you. It is not necessary to make such a request to an unfamiliar colleague, ask relatives or good friends.

Read: What is micromanagement and why is it bad for work

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