Imposter Syndrome has a strong grasp that can hamper progress in life. It has the potential to leave the high-achievers high & dry and exhausted. Imposter syndrome can persist if not given enough attention. It undermines you and your skills, abilities, and confidence. It takes away wholehearted happiness and leaves you with overwhelming amounts of anxiety and stress. More often than not, it is a silent struggle undergone by individuals who work long hours under high pressure and yet feel inadequate.
But what causes the seeds of imposter syndrome to develop?
There are various reasons why imposter syndrome takes root in a person’s psyche. Let’s explore a few here -
- Formative experiences: when an individual has experienced harsh criticism, or excessive praise throughout childhood, it could lead to imposter syndrome. This is because the person is not used to their current situation of being valued or appreciated.
- Expectation to achieve: when culture and society impose a certain standard of achievement on an individual, it brings an unrealistic sense of failure when that standard is not achieved.
- Perfectionism: Perfectionism surfaces when an unattainable goal is set up but not met. This failure to achieve often leads to the birth of imposter syndrome in an individual.
- Fear of failure: People’s belief in having to be perfect to be desirable often leads to imposter syndrome taking control of their (work) life.
How do you identify the symptoms of imposter syndrome?
Fear of failure is a common feeling most people endure at some point in their work life but when it becomes a constant, this is a sign that you are dealing with imposter syndrome. Here are a few other ways imposter syndrome can manifest itself in different individuals -
- Attributing success to external factors: believing that you “got lucky” or it was an external circumstance that led to the success of your outcome rather than your efforts.
- Self-doubt: Feeling as though you are not cut out for this job or constantly questioning yourself are the common manifestations of imposter syndrome.
- Fear of being exposed: you feel that one day the office would wake up to see your incompetence and worry about it constantly.
- Avoiding recognition: being awkward to receive praise or a good word for the work done and feeling anxious to acknowledge the efforts that go behind this success
- Overworking: the excessive need to take on more tasks than necessary and feeling overwhelmed, just to prove that you are worthy of the job given
- Constant comparison: the urge to compare yourself with others and feeling inadequate with your skills and abilities.
- Setting unrealistic goals: trying to schedule more than enough tasks on the to-do list to overcompensate for the imposter within you
- Reluctance to seek help: hesitating to seek support as though it is a sign of weakness or incompetence.
How does imposter syndrome affect the body?
Often the symptoms of imposter syndrome are psychological but over prolonged periods, it becomes physical. The bodily manifestations of imposter syndrome include:
- Difficulty falling asleep: due to the excessive amount of pressure, the body finds it difficult to relax or sleep, pondering upon the impending tasks and the mental relaying of this pressure.
- Headaches and tension: experiencing muscle tension, headache, and such are common physical versions of the stress that comes with the undealt imposter syndrome symptoms
- Digestive issues: these present as stomach aches, indigestion, or changed bowel movements. And they often are ignored which leads to further issues such as stomach ulcers and the like.
- Compromised immune system: the frequency of falling ill increases and the speed of recovery reduces leading to frequent absences.
How to overcome it?
Understanding and recognizing imposter syndrome is the first step to overcoming it. Knowing that many high-achieving people around you may also be struggling with this is a sign for you to be empathetic towards them. Here are some other ways to overcome the symptoms of imposter syndrome -
- Reframe your thoughts - remind your negative thoughts about the achievements, skills, and work you put in regularly.
- Set realistic goals: Instead of overwhelming your day with more tasks than doable, list down a maximum of 6 tasks per day and get them done consistently.
- Keep a success journal: Document your successes, big or small, and how you feel about them. Add the details preceding the successful endeavor to remind yourself how you got there
- Seek support from mentors or professionals: reaching out to someone who can help you cope with your issues and do better in managing the tasks at hand.
- Practice self-compassion: being kind to oneself, just as easily as others, is an essential trait to develop to deal with imposter syndrome on a long-term basis.
Imposter syndrome does not have to take control of your life. By acknowledging and acting on the symptoms, it is only a matter of perseverance until you overcome the condition. It is easy to let the overwhelm be all-consuming but with consistent maintenance of self-compassion, journaling, and setting realistic goals, imposter syndrome will pave the way for wholehearted happiness.