WHAT IS THE IMPOSTOR SYNDROME?
Impostor syndrome is a psychological condition that makes you feel like an impostor when you are not. This concept was coined in 1978 by two psychologists, Pauline CLANCE and Suzanne IMES. “I consider myself responsible for all my failures and am not responsible for my successes.” Many of us can relate to this feeling of shame at least once in our lives.
WHY IS IT A PROBLEM?
Generated by low self-esteem, it prevents those who experience it from reaching their full potential, achieving their dreams, having a fulfilling social life, accessing their desired job and romantic relationship, etc. Our entire life can be impacted by this self-sabotaging mechanism.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
This syndrome stems from childhood. It arises from poor self-esteem caused by the fact that you feel like you are different from others. For example, when we repeatedly feel bigger, smaller, poorer, richer, or in an atypical family situation, our sensitivity differs from that of other children, etc. to the point of being unable to connect with them, you feel like you don’t belong to the group.
From this exclusion, the conviction develops that “there is no place for you here”. Then, this voice follows us everywhere. Often being belittled or lacking in attention. Compliments were very rare; the child was not praised and was often compared negatively. Whatever the child did was never good enough. We should be valued with our qualities and our faults, for who we are, without being compared or judged “better than” or “worse than others”.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS SYNDROME
Never having felt validated by my peers caused low self-esteem and reinforced the idea that “I suck”. The impostor takes possession of me and cords my brain to live only through his denigration.
My past haunts me. I was programmed to never feel that I belonged anywhere and not to have the right to exist in a group. Then, since I felt marginalized, I was terrified of judgment, which could support this feeling of worthlessness.
Thus, any evaluation or confrontation with a group is experienced with anxiety, which makes me want to flee from it.
When I fail, the feelings of worthlessness are reinforced. I felt undeserving of positive things I had in my life i.e., access to an exceptional university, an important workplace, incredible partner, etc. Then, when I am successful, I attributed it to luck, some combination of circumstances, some mistake, ease of the task, etc. Thus, any success accentuated my belief that I was an impostor. So, I never take responsibility for my accomplishments or my successes personally.
Furthermore, I was very afraid of being exposed by others, who would find out that I am not the person that they think they know. I thus developed the idea of deceiving my world about my qualities and skills. So, I try to hide my “real” face.
Objectively, all of this is obviously wrong, but I am the only one who does not know it. I think I am deceiving others, but it is the impostor in me who misunderstands: my worth, my skills, my responsibility for my accomplishments and my legitimacy to be where I am.
My anxiety about being evaluated or judged triggers self-sabotage mechanisms, such as inaction, procrastination, and hard work.
We stay in our comfort zone, without being confronted with external judgments. For example, I wouldn’t ask questions in front of a group, because it seems silly to me, and the others seem much smarter to me. As a result, I prevented myself from clarifying my doubts. Or, applying for a position in a company, I tell myself that I have no chance and that no reason would justify choosing me over someone else, since I am unworthy. Consequently, I do not send my application, although I like the position.
Procrastination is the art of always putting off our actions until tomorrow. Faced with a deadline, I wait until the last moment to complete my task, which forces me to have less time and to act under pressure. So, I don’t give myself the chance to succeed.
Hard work is about providing an amount of work that is disproportionate to the task requested. If I failed to work hard, I would say to myself that “I am incapable”, which will reinforce my low self-esteem. If successful, I would attribute the success to having to work so much harder than others. Therefore, I feel less competent than them and thus, I consider myself undeserving of success.
What is particularly vicious for sufferers of this syndrome is that no matter what, they are deeply dissatisfied with themselves. No matter how successful or unsuccessful they are, they will be unhappy. Indeed, feeling incapable of succeeding and never up to the task, they do not believe in themselves. Because of this excessive and chronic modesty, I do not know the feeling of pride or personal satisfaction. In the end, we can conclude that the real impostor is not oneself, but the voice that has taken hold of us and made us believe in these absurdities … All that remains is to eject it!
8 Tips against this syndrome
Don’t forget to tell yourself:
“I am worthy to receive, I have my place here. I deserve the good things life has to offer me as much as anyone else.”
This article is courtesy of Justine from “Je Realise” the blog about ideas and actions to succeed in a tailor-made life.