Dismantling and Defeating the
Vicious Cycle of Imposter Syndrome
part 6 of a 6-part series discussion of imposter syndrome
Excessive feelings of self-doubt can hinder success, growth, and happiness. But it doesn’t have to.
Imposter Syndrome (IS) is no longer a buzzword but has worked its way into normal conversations. This is perhaps the best defense in overcoming this syndrome. In order to dismantle and defeat something, the concern must first be addressed. People who struggle with imposter syndrome are talking about it and are normalizing IS conversations that were once taboo and too embarrassing to discuss.
Impostor Syndrome is fairly common with researchers believing that up to 70% of people have suffered from it at one point or another in their lifetime. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make it any less damaging to one’s confidence, career growth, and opportunities towards personal development. Calling attention to these symptoms that are aligned with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression may further the consideration in identifying it as a diagnosis covered within the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders handbook. Until then, many are left alone to manage the symptoms the best way possible.
Imposter Syndrome Unwilling Participants
As the open dialogue continues on this vicious cycle, we should remember that akin to mental health matters, imposter syndrome is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Recall the five types of imposter syndrome below. Can you relate to any of them?
- Expert. This type is never satisfied with their level of understanding and is convinced they must continue learning more.
- Soloist. This type insists on working alone and will refuse to ask for help from the fear of appearing incompetent or weak.
- Superhero. This type works non-stop taking on more than the usual workload in an effort to make up and overcome their feeling of inadequacy.
- Perfectionist. This type is never satisfied nor happy with their work and instead of recognizing their strengths, they are fixated on their flaws.
- Natural Genius. This type is the overachiever who sets exceedingly and at times unrealistic goals then become emotionally crushed when not achieved.
We refer to anyone suffering from imposter syndrome as unwilling participants because it is only logical that no one chooses to impose these self-sabotaging tactics on themselves. The fact that it has yet to be recognized as a mental health disorder, doesn’t negate the damaging effects. Suffering from imposter syndrome can be devasting and adversely impacts one’s lifestyle and mental health. In light of the propensity, getting past imposter syndrome involves commitment and dedication.
Imposter Syndrome is an illusion of incompetence despite outward evidence.
Defeat Imposter Syndrome Permanently
- Speak Up. While IS is not recognized as a diagnosis, the symptoms are akin to common mental health conditions. It is likely millions of people suffer silently from anxiety and depression and when these conditions are left untreated, it can end in a life of misery or worse, suicide. The first step towards defeating IS permanently is to not suffer in silence and speak up about the feelings you are experiencing. Speaking with someone will provide you with a sounding board and the opportunity to separate perception from reality. Acknowledge your feelings, but also accept the facts. Remember that IS is an illusion, thus strive to focus on outward evidence that proves the worthiness of achievements.
- Identify core beliefs. The feeling of being an imposter is based on a set of ideas of formulated beliefs. These beliefs serve as internal core beliefs, something we accept without question. These beliefs can determine to what degree we see ourselves as worthy, competent, and capable. IS nurtures negative beliefs deadly to our self-esteem and has a huge influence on our sense of belonging. Thus, identifying detrimental core beliefs is key to overcoming this cycle. Once identified, change them. One suggested method is through a practice of positive self-talk. It’s something we do automatically, but we want to become deliberate in our thinking by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Rely on evidence of achievements such as promotions, raises, recognition, and awards to justify positive self-talk.
- Develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the understanding that abilities can be developed through dedication and intentional efforts. IS sufferers find it challenging to recognize and accept their achievements. However, a growth mindset, allows you to reason that you are worthy of your achievements. A growth mindset accompanied by positive self-talk will allow you to begin valuing what you are doing regardless of the outcome. Individuals who believe in their talents with gratitude will find increased motivation, innovation, and productivity. A growth mindset will inculcate positive thoughts in defeating imposter syndrome.
- Distinguish fear from fact. The reality is that at times we will feel a sense of insecurity as well as some fear when striving after goals. This is a normal reaction. Hence as you encounter these fears it is important to distinguish fear as a normal reaction and not consider the fear as proof of the fact that you are not worthy or deserving of recognition. It is unrealistic to believe consistent awards, promotions, and accolades are bestowed upon you from mere luck or timing. Dismantling imposter syndrome means overcoming the feeling of unworthiness and finding a healthy balance between normal fear while discarding fears not based on facts will help eliminate faulty thinking.
- Track your success. IS does not happen overnight, nor will dismantling and defeating it occur in a night. And to clarify, tracking your success is not the same as measuring your success. One of the hardest things for someone who is dealing with imposter syndrome is to grasp their own success, even when others speak highly. One way to defeat this feeling and provide proof is to actually document your wins. By doing this, you are able to gather your thoughts, reinforce new and positive beliefs, and establish a new mindset. By tracking your success you will be able to distinguish unhealthy fear from normal fear.
Life By Design
Overall, the vicious cycle of imposter syndrome can be dismantled and defeated through mindfulness and using some methods mentioned. In doing so, we can diminish the effects of imposter syndrome and life by design. As discussed in previous posts, a wider public discussion on this topic will allow this to become a community effort. A community of employees, employers, and professional coaches with a focus on the efforts.
If you are here for the first time, please see earlier discussions: Are You A Fraud, Mental Health And Imposter Syndrome, Imposter Syndrome and The Role of Bias, What Is Corporate Responsibility Towards Imposter Syndrome In The Workplace, and 5 Strategies for Employers to Combat Imposter Syndrome In the Workplace.
Speaker, Author, Thought-Leader… and I really like this one, vibrant living culture creator; Golden Soror of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Michigan Women’s Commission Appointee. With more than forty years of expertise in business management and personal development, I also have the distinction of receiving the NAWBO Top Businesswoman Award and the Booker T. Washington Legacy Award.