When people think of fraud, they typically think of someone breaking the law or stealing money. However, fraud can also refer to a person who is not who they say they are. Of course, there are well-publicized cases where this is true. e.g Anna Sorokin, the fake German heiress.
More often than not, the type of fraud referring to a person not being who they say they are is a function of self-doubt. This is known as impostor syndrome, a condition in which people feel like they are frauds despite evidence to the contrary.
It’s characterized by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and low self-confidence. People who suffer from imposter syndrome believe that they are not good enough and that they will be found out as frauds. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. People with impostor syndrome often feel like they are not good enough or that they are only pretending to be competent.
As a result, they may not reach their full potential, as they might shy away from opportunities because they are afraid they’re not qualified. Or maybe even downplay their successes and attribute them to luck.
With all this being said, it’s important to remember that almost everyone feels like an imposter sometimes. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what imposter syndrome is, it’s five subgroups, and ways to overcome it.
Societal Impact On Imposter Syndrome
While impostor syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, it is a real and common phenomenon that can have a major impact on a person’s life. There are many different contributing factors to impostor syndrome, but one of the most significant is the way that we judge ourselves compared to others. In our society, there is a lot of pressure to succeed and to be perfect.
This can lead us to compare ourselves to others and to feel like we are falling short. Additionally, our self-esteem is often based on external validation, such as awards, grades, and compliments from others. When we don’t receive this validation, we may question our abilities and feel like impostors.
Successful People And Imposter Syndrome
Even the most successful people can sometimes feel like imposters. Sometimes, those people are tapped on the shoulder for bigger opportunities and are, fortunately, pushed out of their comfort zone. Lo and behold, they often succeed. However, often this kind of external push doesn’t take place. What then? High-achievers are particularly susceptible to imposter syndrome, as they often set unrealistic standards for themselves.
This will often lead to anxiety and self-doubt and can prevent even the most capable people from pursuing their goals, avoiding taking risks, or putting themselves in situations where success is not certain.
Five Imposter Syndrome Types
Imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Since then, it has been the subject of numerous studies. Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome, has identified five subgroups of people who suffer from impostor syndrome: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert.
1. The Perfectionists
These people tend to set extremely high standards for themselves and feel that they must always be flawless to be considered successful. Sure, for anyone striving to achieve their goals, a certain amount of perfectionism can be helpful. After all, it takes a high level of dedication and attention to detail to succeed in any field.
However, there is such a thing as too much perfectionism. When people become excessively focused on avoiding mistakes, they can often become paralyzed by fear and fail to take action altogether. Instead of striving for perfection, it is important to learn to accept mistakes as part of the process. Mistakes are inevitable, and they provide an opportunity for growth and learning.
What matters most is not whether you make mistakes, but how you learn and respond to them. If you can learn to embrace mistakes as part of the journey, you will find it much easier to take action and achieve your goals.
2. The Supermen/Superwomen
These people feel like they have to do everything perfectly and juggle multiple responsibilities to prove their worth. They might compulsively work long hours regardless of the reason or rewards. This type of workaholism is often driven by the need for external validation, such as money, prestige, or power. However, this can be a dangerous trap to fall into.
External validation is fleeting and difficult to control. Ultimately, it is an unreliable source of happiness. Inner validation, on the other hand, comes from within. It is a sense of self-worth that is not contingent on external factors. Recognizing the importance of inner validation can help workaholics break free from the need for constant approval from others.
When we learn to value ourselves for who we are, rather than what we do, we can find true contentment and peace of mind.
3. The Natural Geniuses
These people think that if something comes easily to them, it must not be valuable. They might feel like they have to live up to their own hype or else be considered a fraud.
We all know the type: the person who seems to be good at everything they try. They’re the star of the soccer team and top of their class, and they make it look so effortless. It’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind when you compare yourself to someone like that. But here’s the thing: nobody is a genius at everything. Everybody has areas where they struggle, and even the people who make it look easy have had to put in a lot of hard work to get where they are.
So instead of beating yourself up for not being a genius, embrace the fact that you’re a work in progress. According to author James Clear, “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn without mistakes.” So view your mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow, and remember that we all have areas where we need to improve. Embracing your status as a work in progress is a far more productive way of approaching life than trying (and failing) to be a genius at everything.
4. The Soloists
These people are unwilling to delegate tasks or ask for help because they feel like they should be able to do everything on their own. They frequently feel like they should have everything under control to be successful. Of course, being a soloist can be a very rewarding experience. You get to enjoy the fruits of your labor and feel a sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you did it all yourself. However, being a soloist also has its challenges.
One of the biggest challenges is knowing when to ask for help, or fully appreciating the fact that one person’s efforts don’t scale. Asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness, but in reality, it takes a lot of strength to admit that you need assistance. Often, asking for help is in the best interest of everyone. Soloists should realize there is no shame in asking for help when needed, or when it makes sense for the greater good. Doing so can actually help you to become even more successful.
When you surround yourself with people who are willing to help you achieve your goals, you will find that anything is possible. So next time you feel like you are struggling to go it alone, reach out for help. You may be surprised at how much difference it can make.
5) The Experts
These people think that they need to know everything about their field to be successful. They tend to feel like they can never really know enough, fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable, and are constantly second-guessing themselves. They measure their competence based on what they know or can do.
For example, some experts may shy away from applying to job postings unless they meet every single educational requirement. Sound familiar?
Others may constantly seek training or certifications because they think they need to improve their skills to succeed. Even if an expert has been in their role for some time, they may still feel like they don’t know “enough.” And, some experts may even shudder when someone says they’re an expert. Indeed, there’s always more to learn; However, endlessly striving to bulk up your skill set can take away from your ability to focus on other important aspects of your career and life.
It is possible to find a balance between continuously learning and being confident in your abilities. When you feel like you have the right mix of skills, you can approach opportunities with confidence knowing that you have something valuable to offer.
While everyone experiences impostor syndrome from time to time, those who identify with one or more of these categories may be more prone to chronic feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. If you find yourself constantly doubting your abilities or achievements, it may be time to seek out help from a professional who can help you develop a more positive outlook on life.
What is certain, imposter syndrome doesn’t have to hold you back. Here are some tips for combating imposter syndrome.
Tips For Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
1) Acknowledge Your Imposter Feelings
The first step is acknowledging that you might be suffering from imposter syndrome. Once you’ve done that, you can start to work on overcoming it. Recognize that imposter syndrome is common. This is where a little bit of self-awareness can come in handy. Even if you’re feeling like a fraud, chances are other people feel the same way. You’re not alone in your feelings of self-doubt.
2) Practice Self-Compassion
Be gentle with yourself—cut yourself some slack! Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect.
3) Set Realistic Standards – Do Not Be A Perfectionist
Stop setting impossible standards for yourself—you’re only setting yourself up for failure if you do that. Aim for progress, not being a perfectionist. For example, if there is a big goal you have for yourself, break it down into smaller, digestible chunks that are more realistic to achieve. Measure your success through the eyes of progress, instead of the final, big goal.
4) Seek Out Support
Build a support network of people who believe in you. Find friends or mentors who will encourage you and help build up your confidence. These people can provide valuable feedback and help you stay motivated when imposter syndrome strikes.
5) Take Action
Get out there and start doing something! Don’t let your fears hold you back from opportunities. Jump in headfirst and learn as you go. Remember that small steps equal big changes over time.
6) Give Yourself Credit For Accomplishments
Look at the glass half full, not half empty. Start acknowledging your successes and accomplishments, even if you think they’re small. They all add up! And when you inevitably make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Instead, focus on what went right. What did you do that was successful? How can you replicate that success in the future
7) Focus On The Present
Dwelling on past failures won’t do you any good. You can’t change it, but you can learn from it. So instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself what you learned. Stay focused on what’s happening right now and within your control. What can I do differently now or the next time, as a result of my new learning?
8) Reframe Your Thoughts
I sincerely believe this is the biggest game-changer. We’ve heard the expression, whether you think you can or can’t you are right. Whatever you believe to be true about yourself, a situation, or circumstances will have a considerable impact on how you show up, and how you respond. When negative self-talk starts creeping in, reframe it into positive thoughts. For example, instead of thinking “I’m not good enough,” try thinking “I’m still learning and I will get better with time”, or “I’m doing the best I can.” Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect. What is good about the situation you are in?
9) Seek Professional Help
If your feelings of inadequacy are preventing you from living a happy, fulfilling life, seek professional help. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and develop coping mechanisms. You can choose to work with a coach or mentor to help improve your feelings and help you get on a better path both personally and professionally.
10) Remember That Others May Also Feel This Way
Ultimately, impostor syndrome is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It doesn’t discriminate —it affects everyone regardless of age, gender, race, or occupation. Just because you’re feeling this way doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. You’re not alone! But by recognizing it and taking steps to combat it, you can prevent it from holding you back from achieving your goals.
Millions of people worldwide suffer from it, things can be done to overcome impostor syndrome! By acknowledging your feelings, practicing self-compassion, setting realistic standards, seeking out support, taking action, giving yourself credit, focusing on the present, reframing your thoughts, and remembering that everyone feels this way at times, you can start to overcome the negative emotions associated with imposter syndrome!
If you think you might be suffering from impostor syndrome and you don’t feel like you can go at it alone, or don’t have a support system in place, it’s important to seek out professional help. A therapist can help you learn how to manage your symptoms and improve your self-confidence.
Written by: Nick Tubach, MBA,PPC