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Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you’re not good enough at what you’re doing. You might feel like you don’t really deserve the position you’re in or that you only got where you are out of luck, whether it be a job role, passing an exam, or being a speaker on a panel. Imposter syndrome can make you scared of people finding out that ‘you’re not actually good enough’ or ‘you don’t belong here after all’.
In reality, most people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives and it can affect absolutely anyone, regardless of things like gender, age or job. It’s doesn’t just play a role in educational or professional environments either – some people might experience imposter syndrome in their personal lives too, e.g. you might worry that you’re not good enough to belong in your friendship group. Biracial or multi-ethnic individuals may also experience racial imposter syndrome, whereby they feel like they don’t completely belong to any particular culture or feel as though they’re ‘faking’ their identity.
Inevitably, feeling like an imposter can lead you to think that no-one else feels this way. The truth is, everyone has self-doubt at times and wonders whether or not they can live up to expectations! It’s a natural human trait, but there are a few things that can help you to feel less like a fraud in your own life.
What can it feel like?
Imposter syndrome can impact your mental health and sometimes interferes with your work-life balance, which can cause more stress. You may:
- Have self-doubt
- Feel like a fraud
- Have low self-esteem
- Feel anxious or stressed
- Feel like you don’t belong
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Dismiss your own success or accomplishments
- Feel undeserving of your position or the praise that you’re given
For some people, imposter syndrome stems from perfectionism or the need to overachieve. As a result, they might set themselves extremely ambitious goals and overwork themselves to feel as though they’re good enough. If they don’t fulfil these goals perfectly, it can lead to unwarranted feelings of failure and unworthiness.
What might help?
Imposter syndrome can be a hinderance to your self-worth and stop you from pursuing your goals out of fear of failure. However, trying out some of the tips below can help you to come to terms with imposter syndrome and eventually realise that you are deserving of your achievements or place in society.
- Recognise the feelings and let them go. Perhaps the first step to overcoming feelings of self-doubt is recognising that imposter syndrome is actually a thing. It’s a phenomena that the majority of us experience in our lives and many of us can relate to. Knowing this can be reassuring and allow you to label your negative thoughts, so that you can accept them and move on. Next time you find yourself undermining your skills, achievements or potential, think to yourself “That’s just the imposter syndrome talking” and carry on as you were.
- Reflect on your skills and positive traits. You might find it useful to make a list of everything that you’re good at. This can be in your educational/work life, your personal life, or both! While this might feel a bit arrogant, it’s actually a great way of seeing all of your achievements and abilities on paper. It can help you to realise that you are good enough, and you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. You didn’t just blag your way to where you are now – you are there for a reason!
- Talk to people. One of the main symptoms of imposter syndrome is fearing that you’ll be revealed as a ‘fraud’, so telling people about it might feel like you’re handing yourself in! However, talking to people about your feelings can be really empowering and you’ll often find that they feel exactly the same. Imposter syndrome can sometimes get in the way of asking for help or prevent you from taking opportunities that come your way, but opening up about feelings of self-doubt can help you to overcome this.
- Read more about it. A quick Google search will reveal that imposter syndrome is not just something that you’re going through. In fact, it’s so widely experienced that many researchers have devoted years of work to gain a better understanding of it. Taking some time to learn more about it might help you to better navigate your feelings and accept that most of us feel like fakes at some point in our lives!
Where to go for more support
If symptoms of imposter syndrome are bringing you down, you might want to look for further support:
- Verywell Mind has a detailed article about imposter syndrome, including its possible causes, different types, how it shows up and tips on coping with it.
- The Headspace website has a page all about imposter syndrome. It also talks about how meditation and mindfulness can help with these thoughts and even includes a free meditation specifically for imposter syndrome.
- NPR’s Code Switch provides insight into racial imposter syndrome and what it can mean for biracial and multi-ethnic individuals. Their podcast features anecdotes from people who have ‘felt like a fraud’ for being at the intersection of different identities.
- Watch this short TED-Ed video about the psychology behind imposter syndrome and ways to challenge it. TED also has a playlist of talks for anyone who wants to overcome imposter syndrome.
- Talk to 42nd Street. If you’re affected by self-doubt or low self-worth, you might want to talk to someone. We provide a number of face-to-face services, all of which offer something slightly different depending on what you want to get out of the support. You can also chat with one of our workers online - just register for ongoing online support via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so that you can speak to a worker without an appointment. Overall, though, every service provides you with someone who will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and work with you to develop your self-esteem and confidence. You can read about our services here.
By: Ruby Guyler
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