The imposter syndrome is a way of thinking and behaving that denies the person’s true skills. Someone with Imposter syndrome may secretly believe that they aren’t as skilled or qualified as others believe them to be. Doubts about their accomplishments, capabilities abound and they feel like a fraud.
The Imposter Syndrome is extremely common. I have met CEO’s, CFO’s and highly ambitious and skilled individuals who do not believe they deserve to be where they are. They fear they will soon be found out for not being as competent as they appear to be.
Some common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
The link between perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome
I have also found a strong link between perfectionism and Imposter syndrome. Perfectionists associate their self-worth according to their accomplishments and levels of striving.However. for many perfectionists their thinking is distorted and the pattern that emerges is that, no matter what they actually do achieve, it ends up not being good enough. Perfectionists tend to always be looking ahead at the next accomplishment and rarely stop to congratulate themselves or enjoy any victory along the way. There is actually very little satisfaction for perfectionists. They mistakenly believe that the next accomplishment will finally offer them the self-acceptance they crave.
Unfortunately, accomplishments rarely help someone achieve their full potential because external validation is a precarious way to pursue inner fulfillment. When you seek outside yourself to fill something within, you are likely to be disappointed.
Core beliefs need to be changed before accomplishments will be meaningful
Self-doubt bothers all of us from time to time. We might be exceptional at our jobs and be highly skilled but we are social creatures and comparison is inevitable. We compare all our perceived flaws and weaknesses against other people’s shows of bravado and great PR skills. No one is ever as perfect as they pretend to be on social media, through PR and marketing campaigns etc.
Many of us possess an underlying fear that we aren’t good enough and this belief can be triggered daily by and offhand comment made by a friend or partner, seeing someone brag online about an accomplishment or a negative thought that hounds us for hours.
It can be difficult to maintain and inner sense of confidence 100% of the time – in fact, I would say this is impossible, unless you are a narcissist. Even then, narcissists truly feel they aren’t enough but counteract this by brainwashing themselves into believing they are superior and entitled to things mere mortals aren’t.
Self-acceptance is key
When you accept yourself, you stop feeling you aren’t enough. You accept yourself, flaws and all and understand that even though there is room for improvement, you are still good enough as your are. We overthink, listen to negative thoughts and spend far too much time in our minds.
Decide what your values are and do your best to live according to those rather than running endlessly after accomplishments to improve your self-acceptance. Do you see yourself as a kind person? Do you try your best to see the good in others and not do harm? That’s a good start. The more you live in line with your values, the happier you will be and you will also be strengthening your inner foundation that you will carry with you forever. When you possess self-awareness and like yourself, that healthy inner foundation will provide a buffer when external situations cause psychological distress.
Live according to your values
Values that are important to me: Tolerance, honesty, being non-judgmental, being open-minded, being kind, helping others, friends and family, caring for animals. There are so many but these are a few. The more you live in line with your values, the calmer you will feel.
Common values include:
- Inner Harmony
- Meaningful Work
How to improve your inner confidence
Always challenge your negative self talk. if you catch yourself criticising yourself – ask yourself how it is helpful? Ask yourself where the evidence is for your nasty comments towards yourself? Do you have proper evidence that would stand up in court? It’s doubtful. Most inner self talk is conditioned by early message from our parents and other authority figures. It might be time to choose better core beliefs that serve you and that are more neutral.
Reframe negative self talk. For example – if you tell your self “I am so useless!” Stop and reframe it – something like: “No, I am not useless. Sometimes things don’t work out but that doesn’t mean I am worthless”
Work at finding evidence that refutes your self-criticism. If you an find one example to the contrary (eg. I made a delicious dinner last night), then you aren’t useless. Thoughts aren’t facts so get used to ignoring the annoying negative thoughts. They serve no valuable purpose.
Regularly remind yourself of things that you like about yourself. Are you kind, tolerant, forgiving etc? You can make your inner self-talk more positive by making a repeated effort to focus on the good stuff about yourself. Shift your relationship with yourself and treat yourself as you would someone you truly loved and cherished (self-compassion).
Stop comparing yourself and consider what you seen in the media and online with a pinch of salt. Dilute what you see by three-quarter and you will be closer to the reality. People massively hype up their images online – cameras, photo shop and great editing are NOT reality.
It’s okay to feel self-doubt but it’s not okay to constantly berate yourself, give in to bullies who belittle you or accept disrespect more yourself or others. See yourself as whole and stop the nitpicking. Enjoy life and let the nonsense and unimportant stuff go. You are enough…start believing it.
Fabulous BBC series on The Imposter Syndrome:
There are four more episodes in this series – take a look at BBC’s website.
Imposter Syndrome: The Five Types, How to Deal With It (verywellmind.com)