Have you ever felt like you fluked your way through life? That you only got where you are today through sheer luck, cunning deception and fraudulence? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is a toxic mindset which is infringing millions of people from pursuing their goals in life.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern which contorts all achievements into insignificance. Those suffering from imposter syndrome believe everything they’ve achieved was through luck, unconscious cheating, or deception.
They think they only got that job because they were the best of a bad bunch, pulled off some fantastic BS during the interview or presented themself as unnaturally charismatic and intelligent.
Having such deep insecurities related to their achievements cause those with imposter syndrome to feel terrified about being “found out” as a “fraud”.
Suffers can spend months or even years struggling with endless sleepless nights, night terrors, profuse sweating at work, withdrawal, stress and chronic physical and mental health problems. All this because of their belief that they’re living a dishonest life on the verge of being revealed.
Imposter Syndrome Isn’t Underconfidence.
People suffering from imposter syndrome aren’t just “underconfident people“; imposter syndrome is much more sinister than that. It’s not a lack of belief in themselves which is causing the issue, but rather, the individual’s misconception of reality.
“Imposters” (as I shall refer to suffers) have a deceptive view of reality in which they undervalue their abilities and overvalue the skills of others.
The difference between underconfidence and imposter syndrome lie in the realms of internal and external self-evaluations. Under confident people lack faith in their abilities because they have little faith in who they are and what they want to do in life, while those suffering from imposter syndrome struggle with both internal self-doubt and a toxic habit of self-comparison.
While an underconfident person defines themselves by their lack of abilities, “imposters” define themselves in comparison to others.
“Imposters” Aren’t All Novices
“Imposters” magnify everything in the external world to an unrealistic degree and demagnify everything about themselves in response. To the “imposter”, everyone is much better than them. Everyone else knows what they’re doing, unlike them. Other people are more talented, skilled, worthy and accomplished.
Yet the irony of all of this is that “imposters” are very rarely novices. Most “imposters” are high-ranking CEOs, famous actors and actresses, established artists, accomplished writers and award-winning athletes.
The reason why there are so many “high-ranking” people struggling with imposter syndrome is that these people see the world as a ranking system.
While achievements and skills are objective in their own right, those with imposter syndrome see such things as relative. To them, a Grammy award means nothing compared to an actress who has an Oscar, and a silver Olympic medal is worthless compared to a gymnast with two gold medals.
Because they see the world in terms of a ranking system, “imposters” stop appreciating what they have achieved. All they see are the people above them, and their imposter system intensifies the higher they climb the system, because the higher up they climb, the further they have to fall.
The Price of Imposter Syndrome
The problem is, the longer an “imposter” stays in the realm of comparison, the more they solidify their distorted view of themselves and others, thus leading them to believe that they don’t belong where they are. Soon, the “imposter” becomes so disassociated from the world that anything beyond their perceived capabilities become “other” and they stop striving for anything.
Those who feel like an imposter don’t try to get promoted, apply for a better job or may even quit a high-end job out of the fear of not being “good enough”. An “imposter”, drowning in the sense of hopelessness and impending failure, won’t step out of their comfort zone, ask questions or share their ideas with others. Thus, they start falling back in life, become overlooked and become stagnant in their personal and professional journeys.
The fear of not being capable or not being good enough for an “imposter” can be overwhelming and affect all aspects of their life, from their relationships to personal projects and hobbies, social skills, health and career.
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Overcoming imposter syndrome is a unique experience for everyone, but you can apply the same general principle across all circumstances. The focus shouldn’t be on building confidence (although useful): your focus needs to be on reconstructing your perception.
Imposter syndrome isn’t the sign of a personal deficiency but distorted reality. Identifying that you have imposter syndrome is the first step in overcoming it, but it takes a lot of work to challenge your perceptions of “reality”.
Start educating yourself on the hidden biases you carry around with you, such as assuming someone is better than you because they have specific qualifications or more expensive clothing.
Identify what personal “truths” you have about yourself which have been determined entirely through comparison, and start learning to appreciate your accomplishments and potential for growth.
Life isn’t a race or competition: you’re allowed to be less experienced, and it doesn’t make it shameful or embarrassing if someone is seemingly better than you in some way. Negative self-talk will lead to negative self-perceptions, so removing both that and the comparison trap will allow you to start evaluating yourself as a whole according to your standards and not society’s.