Am I an impostor?
“I’m a total fraud, and sooner or later, everyone’s gonna find out.”
Feeling “like a fraud” can be an uncomfortable experience for anyone — especially if you’re good at what you do.
Do you feel like a fraud, sometimes? Or even most of the time?
What is Impostor Syndrome?
According to 2018 research, impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt and a false belief that you’re not as confident and capable as others perceive you to be.
Imposter syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.
The term describes someone who feels they aren't as capable as others think and fears they'll be exposed as a fraud.
Even Einstein considered himself a fraud 😲
Albert Einstein was identified as having “impostor syndrome,” having doubts about his significant accomplishments and talents and fear that others would ultimately realize he was a fraud, not the extraordinary genius they held him to be. Impostor syndrome is not a mental illness, it’s rather a psychological behavior pattern. I will clarify that later.
“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
In describing himself as a “swindler” (someone who gets money dishonestly by deceiving or cheating people), he realized that he was simply another physics researcher among thousands in the world; that he was not the genius who long before made the great discoveries associated with him; that he was a fraud by willingly acting in the role assigned to him as the greatest mind of the 20th century.
Where does Impostor Syndrome come from?
It might have started since you were a kid, you just never knew it
It is believed that the roots of imposter syndrome sit in childhood.
Clance and Imes (1978) theorised that individuals with high achieving siblings of which they were constantly compared to, or those with images of perfection from their family were more commonly affected.
In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem.
What it feels like
Imposter feelings represent a conflict between your own self-perception and the way others perceive you.
Even as others praise your talents, you write off your successes to timing and good luck. You don’t believe you earned them on your own merits, and you fear others will eventually realize the same thing.
I doubt myself sometimes. Do I have impostor syndrome?
Do you remember the definition that I gave to impostor syndrome above?
Not exactly? Well me neither 😒
Just joking 😂
Here is it: Impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt and a false belief that you’re not as confident and capable as others perceive you to be.
Impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt.
Impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt.
Impostor syndrome is a form of self-doubt.
Self-doubt or lack of confidence is about what we can and what we can’t do.
On the other hand, impostor syndrome is about who we think we are.
Clare Josa - an 8x author & International Keynote Speaker contributing to scalable solutions to impostor syndrome & burnout - wrote that It's independent of confidence. You can be genuinely confident, but have Imposter Syndrome. You can be drowning in self-doubt, but not have Imposter Syndrome.
How do I know if I have that impostor syndrome thing?
There are some common signs that most people who have impostor syndrome share:
- Dependence on external validation
You’re a people-pleaser, you may try to please people instead of being your authentic self and pursuing what brings you joy and pleasure.
- Comparison to other people
- Overworking yourself and striving to overachieve
- You focus solely on mistakes, rather than what you did right.
Still reading? AMAZING! If you find this newsletter valuable, consider sharing it with friends, or subscribe if you haven’t already. 👇
DONE? Alright let’s keep going…
We are not all experiencing impostor syndrome the same way…… wait what?
Dr. Valerie Young of the Impostor Syndrome Institute - the world’s #1 source of impostor syndrome solutions - named 5 types of impostor syndrome:
The perfectionist focuses on how something is done, and even a single minor flaw is considered a failure.
The expert focuses on how much they know, and it’s never enough.
The soloist focuses on who completes the task and believes they should be able to do it all on their own.
The natural genius focuses on how quickly and naturally they master a new skill, and it’s rarely fast enough.
The superhuman focuses on how many roles they can excel at, at one time, and feels they should be able to handle all of them perfectly.
In each of these types, failing to reach their own unreasonable standards evokes shame.
So… which one of them are you?
Wait a minute… are you all of them at once? Just tell me I won’t share with nobody, you can reply to this email privately.
Come on, I love hearing people’s secrets 😋
Myths about impostor syndrome
👎 IMPOSTOR SYNDROME IS NOT REAL
😖 IMPOSTOR SYNDROME IS A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
👩 IMPOSTOR SYNDROME ONLY AFFECTS WOMEN
😢 IMPOSTOR SYNDROME IS YOUR FAULT
- Everyone telling you “impostor syndrome is not real” is lying to you:
“It’s not real”
“It’s all in your head”
“Just get over it, don’t be stupid”
“Stop taking things so personally”
Don’t listen to that 💩 dude. Trust me.
When you express doubt or share your thoughts relating to imposter syndrome, those who’ve never experienced it likely invalidate your feelings.
It isn’t all in your head: it’s very real. And you probably won’t believe how many other people have experienced and are experiencing impostor syndrome. A LOT. I could have told you the exact number but I don’t have my calculator on me right now.
Imposter syndrome exists. End of discussion.
- Just because you have impostor syndrome doesn’t mean you are mentally ill:
You might think it is a mental health condition because of the “syndrome” word in impostor syndrome
But imposter syndrome is better described as a phenomenon because, unlike mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, it isn’t pervasive across all parts of your life. It usually only presents in certain situations—especially professional ones that you perceive as stressful, challenging, or demanding.
Imposter syndrome tends to occur at certain times and under certain conditions and is not an inherent, unchangeable part of who you are.
For example, some people find they feel like a fraud at work wondering when someone will spot that they really aren’t up to the job, when actually they truly are capable. Others are fine at work, but may experience the imposter feelings at home, perhaps as a parent – are they a good enough father/mother, when will people realize they are just winging it and don’t know what they are doing?
- “It seems that high-achieving women are more susceptible to the impostor syndrome.”
Impostor syndrome—the idea that you've only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications (oh my goodness he’s giving us yet another definition 🙄) —was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, they theorized that women were uniquely affected by impostor syndrome.
How did they come up with that?
Since then, research has shown that both men and women experience impostor feelings, and Clance published a later paper acknowledging that impostor syndrome is not limited to women.
I personally recommend you to read it. It’s so awesome!
Today, impostor syndrome can apply to anyone “who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes,” says psychologist Audrey Ervin, a Delaware Valley University counseling psychology professor and academic director of the graduate counseling psychology program.
- It’s not your fault if you feel like a fraud. 70% of people report having impostor syndrome, it is all their faults? Hell no.
You might assume that having impostor syndrome is your fault—for not being smart enough, stronger enough, capable, or good enough, right?
As I mentioned before, impostor syndrome can come from external factors such as the way your family treated you in your childhood, the environment you live in and this can have a real big impact on the way you see yourself.
What should I do?
Separate the fears from the facts
There are times you'll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Even me. But realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean that YOU ARE.
You have to reframe the way you think about your achievements.
I suck at so many things that I can’t even start mentioning them because you’ll have to stick with me in this newsletter issue for another couple of hours and neither of us have time for that.
What I suggest is writing down the things you're truly good at, and the areas that might need work. That can help you recognize where you're doing well, and where there's legitimate room for improvement.
And please… avoid comparing yourself to others. You are YOU, and they are THEM.
The worst thing you do is not just comparing yourself to others, but you’re usually comparing your 6 months of experience to somebody’s 10 years of experience. Now just tell me: do you really think this is a fair comparison?
You’re destroying yourself that way.
Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday and learn from others.
Don’t feel like you’re losing just because someone else is winning. Their success has nothing to do with you, so celebrate their success sincerely while you keep working toward your own success.
Thanks for reading
Two quick things…
Reply to this right now and tell me about something new you learned today. What are you planning to do next to beat that impostor syndrome?
I’ll be popping in to discuss with you. So make sure to leave a comment after you read the post.
Subscribe FOR FREE to my newsletter if you didn’t already to get everything I post right in your inbox. And don’t worry, I NEVER spam!