Have you ever been in a situation when someone believes you to be the perfect person for the job, but you, yourself, aren’t so sure? In fact, you’re so doubtful of your accomplishments and skills that you’re scared of coming off as, for lack of a better word, a fraud.
Well, it might be weird to know and may come as a shock, but you’re not alone. I’m going to be honest here, I wasn’t aware this was an actual phenomenon before my editor handed me the topic, so I never actually realized it. But now that I know the word, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m in a perpetual state of this syndrome, the imposter syndrome.
If you need something interesting to get started on, here’s a list of people who suffer from the condition (remember, these people believed that it was chance that made them successful and not their work):
- Michelle Obama
- Tom Hanks
- Padma Lakshmi
- Neil Armstrong (the first man to set foot on our Moon felt he was there by chance, not technical expertise and knowledge)
- Ryan Reynolds (Yep, Deadpool thought that he was lucky to achieve the things he did)
- Emma Watson (Hermoine? You’re here, too? Turns out, she felt her career was accidental after being cast in Harry Potter as a child artist.)
- Stefani Germanotta (LADY GAGA)
- Serena Williams
What Is It?
According to its medical definition, imposter syndrome (AKA imposter phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome, and sometimes the imposter experience) is the “psychological experience of believing that one’s accomplishments came about not through genuine ability, but as a result of having been lucky, having worked harder than others, or having manipulated other people’s impressions, has been labeled the imposter phenomenon.”
In simple terms, the syndrome makes a person believe that their accomplishments are a result of chance, luck, and coincidence instead of their potential and skill; and this can seriously affect productivity and health.
“I feel fake,” “it’s all about chance/luck,” or “I shouldn’t fail” are common thoughts of people who suffer from the syndrome. In some cases, like mine, you won’t be aware of what these thoughts exactly meant, but it still affects how you work.
So How To Overcome This?
Identify Such Feelings: Staying aware of your mental state and emotional state will allow you to take preventive steps. Recognizing the feeling of self-doubt will help you segregate:
- What are these feelings?
- When do they emerge?
Tell yourself and remind yourself how you achieved all that you have. If you’re in a particular circumstance, it’s as a result of a chain of events and sheer, dumb luck couldn’t have done everything. If nothing else, give yourself the bare minimum credit for your accomplishments. Keep in mind that you are allowed sometimes to make small mistakes and forgive yourself.
Talk and Seek Support
Just because you feel such a performance pressure, maybe others are supportive and look up to your work; they would be humbled to lend a helping hand. Talk to friends, family, and colleagues to clearly explain the problems you face when you try or want to overcome the feeling of being a “lucky” person. They may or may not be able to provide some actionable solutions, but sharing these thoughts is bound to take the same pressure off your mind.
Ride the Learning Curve and Step into Success
Be a reporter, an Al Jazeera or BBC journalist and get to the very bottom of how you feel this way. Research the life out of the problem and why you’re feeling this way. You can take an extremely academic route and help yourself. Medical research shows that there are five main types:
- The Perfectionist
- The Superwoman/man
- The Natural Genius
- The Soloist
- The Expert
A Self-Help Tool
The exercise was developed somewhere in the mid-70s, where psychiatrists asked patients of the syndrome to introspect and categorize themselves in one of these five types. When individuals chose the relevant category, the doctors pointed out that there was a significant amount of self-awareness. Transforming the exercise into a solo one, psychiatrists started to recommend this to people at their homes.
- If free from consequences and social judgment, which category would you put yourself in?
- After categorizing, every next task that you do, remind yourself about the factors that you believe were a result of luck, and change those options.
- If you’re able to deal with the consequences of that choice, that means luck was not, is not, and will not be involved in changing that.
- If you lose yourself again, repeat no. 1.
My Two Cents
If you stay aware of your nature, behavior, and choices, there is no reason for you to believe that you don’t deserve what you’re getting. However, if you’re not able to help yourself with it, go to professionals and seek expert assistance.
With a rise in mental health awareness, there is better accessibility and much better resources. Seeking help is not a weakness; it’s a sign of strength, courage, and trust. You’re asking another person to share your problems and look for solutions together.
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