Updated: Aug 14
Imposter syndrome is a term commonly used to conceptualize the feeling of inadequacy. The term is used to describe how an individual may feel about their ability to perform in competitive environments such as work, however, it stems from insecurity; feeling that you don’t measure up to others, and a false perception that other people in your position are more knowledgeable and competent.
Most people experience feeling inadequate at one time or another and on some level, it is completely normal to be critical of yourself or question if you are performing well; it keeps us on our toes so that we continue to work hard. Imposter syndrome looks like low self-esteem, inability to accept compliments, inability to self-affirm or acknowledge achievements, feeling unworthy of success, and dismissing positive feedback.
People who have a perfectionist attitude are more likely to struggle with imposture syndrome. Perfectionism is an inner critic and schema that causes a person to doubt their ability to be successful despite their accomplishments. People who have perfectionism have unreasonably high standards and expectations of themselves and feel their achievements are never enough. They also experience extreme disappointment and harsh self-talk when they fall short of their expectations.
The pressure people put on themselves to perform well can create a false reality in which they project how they feel about themselves onto other people; the logic is: if the individual doesn’t feel competent in their role then other people must feel the same. The reality is, others aren’t paying as much attention to us as we think they are, and the individual experiencing imposter syndrome may be discounting their talents and skills and focusing more on their flaws.
In other words, Imposter syndrome has everything to do with how you feel about yourself and little to do with how others may perceive you.
If you find yourself becoming overly anxious, stressed, and preoccupied about your performance at work or school, constantly disappointed, overly hard on yourself, and depressed you may be struggling with imposture syndrome. It’s a distorted way of thinking, however, it can be unlearned. Therapies such as CBT can help people overcome imposter syndrome by helping the individual reframe their self-talk and shift their perspective.