What Do I Need to Know About Imposter Syndrome?
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Imposter syndrome is a behavioral health condition that primarily affects high-functioning, high-achieving individuals. This mental health challenge causes persistent experiences of doubt in their own abilities and intellect.
This applies particularly to their professional responsibilities. These individuals find it very difficult to internalize their success and can’t recognize that their achievements are due to their hard work and intellectual abilities. Due to these feelings, they may also experience depression and anxiety about their successes being exposed as fraudulent somehow.
There isn’t one clear cause of imposter syndrome, but there are certain life experiences and events that may influence its development. Growing up in an overly critical environment in which extreme importance was placed on achievement may contribute to the development of imposter syndrome. Sometimes starting a new job or being in a new situation can trigger symptoms as well.
Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can affect different people in different ways. There are a variety of symptoms that a person may experience related to this disorder, including:
- Feeling like success is impossible, despite being successful in the past
- Constantly feeling inadequate or incompetent
- Being uncomfortable receiving encouragement, rewards, or praise for achievements
- Feeling disappointed with accomplishments and abilities
- Generating intense or unreasonable internal pressure to be better
- Living in constant fear of failing or disappointing others
- Attributing past abilities and achievements solely to luck
Due to repeated feelings of inadequacy, a person struggling with imposter syndrome can develop other mental health conditions as well. Imposter syndrome symptoms can lead to depression and anxiety disorders because of the constant internal pressure to succeed and feelings of inadequacy.
The 5 Common Presentations of Imposter Syndrome
There are five common ways that a person might experience imposter syndrome. They are each unique, but all stem from the same kinds of feelings of inadequacy and doubt. They include:
#1. The Perfectionist
This type of imposter syndrome leaves a person believing deeply that unless they are achieving absolute perfection, they are not doing enough. They often believe that others expect them to achieve perfection at all times and experience anxiety about living up to that. Perfectionists often have trouble receiving help or collaborating with others because they believe that if they want something done perfectly, they need to do it themselves.
#2. The Superperson
These individuals experience imposter syndrome as a constant pressure to be the hardest worker in any setting. They believe that if they don’t do more than everyone else around them, then they are not achieving enough. Overloading themselves with work, often at the expense of their relationships and personal well-being, is one harmful way that the superperson will try to cope with their negative feelings.
#3. The Expert
A person experiencing the expert type of imposter syndrome feels like an imposter because they feel they don’t know enough about a particular subject. If they are not the most knowledgeable person in a situation, they are often extremely hard on themselves. They usually have a negative sense of self because they believe they will never have enough knowledge to be proficient or successful, even if they have already achieved success. They also live in a state of anxiety and fear of being exposed as ignorant or uninformed.
#4. The Soloist
Individuals experiencing this type of imposter syndrome believe that they do not deserve their current status if they received help from others to achieve it. They believe that if they can’t achieve at the highest levels totally based on their own abilities, they do not deserve success. This can lead to feelings of depression when collaborating with others or receiving typical acts of support.
#5. The Natural Genius
This version of natural genius leads people to believe that they are only successful if they have a natural, internal mastery of knowledge and skills. They judge their achievements based on how quickly and how easily they can get things done. When these individuals don’t get something right on the first try, they feel shame and judge themselves very harshly. They can also hyperfocus on situations where others succeed seemingly without effort and judge themselves harshly as a result.
How to Cope With Imposter Syndrome
Managing imposter syndrome will depend on the intensity of the symptoms being experienced. Practicing mindfulness can be a very helpful tool to both calm anxieties and help a person stay grounded in reality, not fear. Journaling with gratitude and positivity can also serve to help a person accept their achievements.
Seeking help from a mental health professional can also be very beneficial when dealing with imposter syndrome symptoms. Some medication therapies can help alleviate symptoms such as depression or anxiety that can often accompany imposter syndrome. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) serve as a tool to help change negative thought patterns and behaviors. Talking with someone about your feelings can help you face your feelings of inadequacy and start moving past them.
Experiencing symptoms of imposter syndrome can have a detrimental effect on your mental and emotional health. The drive to constantly achieve more can be exhausting. Living with high levels of anxiety can also have serious physical health implications. If you need help managing these overwhelming feelings, Alter Wellness Care can help. Our programs are specifically designed to provide our clients with the resources they need. We strive to provide kindness and compassion in conjunction with the best evidence-based treatment plans. If you would like more information about coping with anxiety, call Alter Wellness Care today at (866) 311-3510 to find out more about our resources. We want to help you achieve a positive sense of self and experience peace.
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