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Feeling Like a Fake: Imposter Syndrome

By: Sia Minhas, Contributing Writer

Edited by Valeri Guevarra, Founder/Executive Director

Imposter syndrome has long been tantalizing people by convincing them they are not deserving of their accomplishments and stimulating doubt in their minds. The question for many remains. What is imposter syndrome and why does it affect people the way it does? This article will delve into the physiological phenomenon that is imposter syndrome and why it occurs.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome was coined in the 1970s by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes as feelings of doubt and insecurity related to accomplishments and feeling as though you are not deserving and are fooling those around you regarding your achievements. It has disproportionately affected women in high-achieving roles like actresses and businesswomen. In fact, Charlize Thereon, Viola Davis, Michelle Obama, and Sonia Sotomayor have admitted to experiencing imposter syndrome. It can also affect people with pressure to achieve. Children of overbearing parents, students attending college, and our own high expectations; Imposter syndrome is complex. It is a paradox as stated by “Those who suffer from it are typically high-achieving individuals by all objective measures.” It is a psychological phenomenon in some regards, imposter syndrome can contribute to other issues like anxiety and depression. While it isn’t recognized as a medical diagnosis, many studies have examined the syndrome and its psychological effects.

How Does it Affect People?

Although imposter syndrome is more prevalent in high-achieving roles, anyone can experience imposter syndrome. Usually, symptoms include persistent doubt and an inability to recognize accomplishments as fully awarded on one's own accord. You can also develop “Superstitions,” feeling that you must work an extensive amount of hours to do well or put yourself under immense stress to do well. It may feel as though you are living as someone else, maintaining a facade of sorts to make yourself a high-achiever and that at any moment, you will be “found out.” It can result in anxiety and depression.

How Can I Deal With Imposter Syndrome?

It can be challenging to reach out and face the battle with imposter syndrome, and it may even feel like you’re telling on yourself for feeling like a fake. APA.Org recommends speaking to your support system. Teachers, parents, and friends can be your biggest allies when it comes to addressing imposter syndrome. It is also essential to recognize your accomplishments as true and entirely as your own. You can also work reframing your mind when it comes to accomplishments. For example, Psychologists can help their clients work on ridding superstitions. Someone with imposter syndrome may want to work many hours on an assignment instead of working one or two hours less.

People with imposter syndrome may not even realize they are experiencing imposter syndrome. It may present as anxiety or something not yet diagnosed in the world, but if you or someone you know may exhibit symptoms of imposter syndrome, consulting a psychologist can be extremely helpful. Having feelings of doubt at times is normal, but it may be better to consult a professional for help when it is all-consuming. Doubt and feelings of fraud are valid, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Often, imposter syndrome can make you feel like you are living a double life, but it doesn’t mean you can’t receive help. These tips can be of aid in regulating feelings associated with imposter syndrome.

  • Separate feelings from facts.

  • Take note of your accomplishments and treasure them.

  • Stop comparing to others.

  • Talk to others, including friends, family, loved ones, or even a therapist


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