Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of phoniness. The all-pervasive feeling that our ideas and skills aren’t worthy of others’ attention. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is crucial to wiping away the omnipresent feeling of fraudulence.

Imposter Syndrome is not a disease or abnormality and nor is it explicitly tied to depression, anxiety, or self-esteem. But there’s no threshold of accomplishment or success that can put these feelings to rest. This makes it an important case requiring attention and awareness.

Imposterism; Image Courtesy: https://bit.ly/3pEnjli

What exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

In layman’s terms, imposter syndrome is a situation where a person feels like a fraud; or that others are just as skilled and that they don’t deserve accolades and opportunities over other people. Studies suggest that at least 70 percent of people will experience this syndrome once in their lifetime. Evidently, this is one of the longest prevailing problems which was until a while ago camouflaged as self-doubt or fear. Dr. Pauline Rose Clance was the first to study this unwarranted sense of insecurity and found that this isn’t like any other esteem issue.

Imposterism is characterized by a pervasive feeling of fraudulence across the boundaries of age, race, and gender. Some of the most prominent cases of imposter syndrome were Albert Einstein and Mary Angelou. One of the greatest scientists to have ever existed on the planet, Einstein thought of himself as an involuntary swindler.

Although, feelings of imposterism aren’t restricted to highly skilled individuals. Every regular joe is susceptible to a phenomenon called pluralistic ignorance; where we doubt our capabilities secretly and feel that we are alone in doing the same. The syndrome is spreading proportionately but is affecting the disadvantaged or underprivileged groups disproportionately. In the case of the latter, the already shaken confidence due to hostile circumstance takes a serious toll.

What are the roots of Imposter Syndrome?

The origin or roots of imposter syndrome cannot be traced back exactly to its source. However, like any other problem, understanding the cause is an important step in overcoming imposter syndrome. Some studies suggest that the childhood feeling of awe whenever we see a grown-up do something we can’t, do leads to the development of a feeling that successful, mature, and competent people are different from us. That they perform and behave in a different way than regular, “insignificant” people.

These beliefs are a result of one’s observance of the outwardly shiny lifestyle of people. Furthermore, we do not get to know people inside out. From where we stand, our weaknesses seem exclusive to us and alien to them. Maybe because we are repeatedly reminded of not being good enough or maybe because we end up believing that.

Image Courtesy: https://bit.ly/3PKjWE3; Self Impostor Disorder

Signs to look out for:

  • You don’t think you deserve your success. The pervasive feeling of fraudulence overwhelms you.
  • You find it hard to balance between the extreme ends of being a procrastinator or perfectionist.
  • Imposterism is not exactly the fear of failure as the latter is connected with the feeling of giving up before trying while the former is not. Imposterism is the fear of someone discovering us as unworthy.
  • Imposterism also develops the need to be the best. You doubt your abilities when you are in an environment where others are as good as you.
  • The feeling of not being skilled, experienced, or qualified enough to be there, yet you are there.

Why overcoming imposter syndrome is important?

Intense feelings of Imposterism stop people from sharing their ideas and opinions in public. We second doubt every decision we make or idea we come up with. This feeling of never being good enough prevents us from applying to jobs where we’d excel.

People with Imposterism are afraid of asking about their performance and doubt every positive feedback or compliment. Moreover, the worst part is that this feeling never goes away with any amount of success or appreciation.

How to deal with Imposterism?

The foremost priority in the path of overcoming imposter syndrome is to talk about it. Open and candid conversations about academic and professional challenges, success and failure, and fear and hope help nurture the feeling of belongingness.

The mere recognition and awareness that others go through the same insecurity and doubts that we are facing help to cope with the effects of it. The realization that there’s a term for it (Imposterism) is like finding an island in a sea of darkness. The main point of concern for people with Imposter Syndrome is that they feel alone in experiencing the same. When basically an outwardly impressive person is vulnerable to it too. Everyone has unique fears, vulnerabilities, and compulsions. We all connect somewhere as the human race is more or less similar.

Trigger the Positive Stress Response; Image Courtesy: https://bit.ly/3pBTnpI


Imposter Syndrome is after all the creation of humans, a mere miswiring of the human brain. It is not a condition but rather a problem that needs recognition more than the solution. The closing argument remains, is overcoming imposter syndrome really the goal? Could it be rather used to our benefit? As a matter of fact, manipulating the same emotions to achieve results is possible without turning them into anxiety. The use of fear as a positive stimulant to achieve results has long been underestimated.

There’ll be points in our life where we’ll feel miles out of our depth. Every now and then we will feel that we don’t belong where we are and that we are not smart enough. The choice is to either freeze and drown in fear or to try to learn as much as we can. In the latter choice, the stimulant will be the constant fear of looking like an amateur. This is generally classified as a positive stress response.

Turning fear into the source of good is better than being drowned by the likes of it. But this doesn’t mean we have to deal with it ourselves and not talk about it. As Sherlock Holmes rightly said, Fear is hope in the face of danger, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Bundling up emotions has never done anyone any good. The important thing is not to overcome it but to be aware of it. Because sometimes feeling out of our depth is actually the point.




Tags: Imposter Syndrome, imposterism, Mental Health, Personality Development, Psychology, Youth Development,

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