Mental Health

What is Imposter Syndrome?


Let’s start by defining imposter syndrome: it is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” This most commonly happens to those of us who are in college or graduate school, or are starting a new and more challenging position.
Imposter Syndrome or Imposter Phenomenon as many call it was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s. It is said to occur among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.
Now this syndrome or phenomenon is not an official diagnosis in the DSM, but due to the nature of it can be often accompanied by anxiety and depression.
Luckily they have been studying Imposter Syndrome, and have found that some of us are more predisposed to struggle with it than others. In a recent study they found that those of us who were raised in a home where there was a large emphasis placed on success and achievement are more likely to struggle, as well as those of us whose parents may have sent mixed messages.
Researchers also find that this experience is more common among minorities, and some of the subjects that they interviewed recalled being told that they would have to work twice as hard to get ahead. So when they do find themselves in a position of success or power, they don’t believe it to be true, or feel that they didn’t truly earn it. Last, they also share that if we feel we are a minority in any way during schooling or in our career can also affect us and cause us to struggle with imposter syndrome.
But now let’s get into how we can combat it:
1. Talk kindly to yourself: You know me, always talking about the power of self talk, but it’s true!
2. Acknowledge your schooling and expertise: Take some time to consider all that you have accomplished.
3. Talk to a mentor or support who could help: Chances are they have been there too. They may have some tips and tools that could help you get out of this funk more quickly.
4. Talk to a professional: if you find this getting in your way so much so that it’s impairing your ability to function in your life, you should look into seeing a therapist or counselor in your area. Like I mentioned earlier, this can lead to anxiety or depression, and the sooner we get help for that the better. Remember, we don’t have to feel at our worst to finally reach out and speak up. xox

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