What Is ‘Impostor Syndrome’ And How To Overcome It?

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As humans, we may sometimes find ourselves doubting our abilities and questioning our accomplishments, however, when the tendency to doubt oneself becomes a part of a person’s usual thinking pattern then it may be a case that such a person has fallen victim to “Impostor Syndrome”.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a thinking pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It is also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism or fraud syndrome.

Individuals experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve what they have achieved even though there may be evidence to the contrary. They may also attribute their success to luck, or think that it as a result of them deceiving or defrauding others into thinking that they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Impostor syndrome was first identified in 1978 in a paper by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They noted that women were more affected by impostor syndrome, however, research has since revealed that men can also suffer from impostorism.

The term impostor phenomenon is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phonies, which appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women. Certain early family dynamics and later introjection of societal sex-role stereotyping appear to contribute significantly to the development of the impostor phenomenon. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persists in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample object evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief

The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women
by: Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes

How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

If you feel like you are suffering from impostor syndrome then here are a few things that can help you overcome that feeling of doubt:

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  • Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt and question them.
  • Talk to a mentor or a trusted friend about your feelings.
  • Recognise your abilities, skills and expertise.
  • Share your expertise with younger or less experienced individuals.
  • Don’t compare your achievements to others.
  • Realise that nobody is perfect.
  • Learn to appreciate your own work and celebrate your achievements.
  • Change the way you think about your achievements and acknowledge your own hard work.

All of us can feel a little self-doubt from time to time, however, if you feel that you are caught in a cycle of ‘Impostorism’ and it is effecting your mental health, then step back, think about it and seek professional help if needed.


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