Tackling Imposter Syndrome

Find out how to recognise and deal with that nagging feeling that you’re a fraud.

Students relax on bean bags.

Do you find yourself constantly doubting your achievements, or fearing that you will be exposed as a fraud? Chances are you might have Imposter Syndrome, a wide-spread but rarely discussed condition, that centres on a person’s feelings of shame or fear because they feel they don’t deserve their personal achievements.

Who might have Imposter Syndrome?

According to Dr. Valerie Young, there are five imposter personality types.

They are:

  • The Expert – a person who is always looking for more information, a habit that can prevent them from completing tasks or applying for jobs as they feel there could be more they need to know. 
  • The Perfectionist - a person who focuses on what they could have done better rather than celebrating what they’ve accomplished.
  • The Soloist – a person who prefers to work alone because they think asking for help will reveal their incompetence.  The Soloist tends to think that asking for help is a sign of failure.
  • The Natural Genius – a person who naturally masters new tasks, but struggles with feelings of shame if they find they can’t do something well straight away.
  • The Superhero – a person who juggles many roles and expects to be able to do it all. Superheroes push themselves hard and struggle with feelings of shame if they can’t keep all the balls in the air all the time. 

Sound like you?

If you recognised yourself in any of the descriptions above, don’t panic! It is really normal for people to struggle with feelings of inadequacy or ‘feeling fake’ at different times in their lives.

The important thing is to recognise the feelings and to address them rather than pushing them away.

Take action!

There are a few simple things you can do when those doubting ‘I’m a fraud’ feelings creep back into your life.

Talk: Talking to friends and family can help you separate what is real and what is nagging self-doubt.

Celebrate: Get in to the habit of documenting your achievements and then use them as a reason to celebrate! It can often be helpful to keep a small diary recording positive feedback you get from others as well (think of it as your own private brag book).

Challenge: Don’t just accept those negative thoughts that wander into your head uninvited, challenge them! It’s often easier said than done, but try your best not to compare yourself to other people. Everyone is different, and everyone (yes, everyone) has different strengths and weaknesses.

Accept: You’re not perfect, and that is ok. Give yourself a break and learn to accept that you don’t have to be an expert at everything, and it is ok to make mistakes.

Get educated!

If you want to learn more about Imposter Syndrome and how you can tackle the feelings associated with it, here is a list of handy resources.

Ted Talk – “What is Imposter Syndrome and how can you combat it?”

Blog – Impostorsyndrome.com

Article - “Quick and dirty tips: What is Impostor Syndrome?”