If you’ve spent enough time with a narcissist, have anxiety, adhd or trauma brain, then the odds are that you probably have imposter syndrome on some level. Even if you don’t have any of these conditions, you might still have it. It turns out that imposter syndrome is extremely common, especially in women. Basically, having imposter syndrome means that you constantly doubt yourself or the fact that you deserve success.
Despite being fully qualified or deserving and being surrounded by evidence, you still feel full of doubt and are waiting for everyone else to discover that you’re not good enough.
You’re constantly feeling like a fraud.
One of the biggest factors of imposter syndrome is feeling like a fraud. Hesitating to share your successes and focusing on your flaws instead is common. You have a hard time accepting praise or believing that you deserve it. And you might either deny it or try to deflect and pass the credit onto someone else.
Even if you had straight A’s in school, took all of the accreditation courses, have certificates out the wazoo and tons of experience, you might still worry that you won’t or shouldn’t be taken seriously. You second guess every comment, post or project because you’re worried that people will think you’re a joke. The next thing you know, you’re stuck in a never ending loop of craving praise and validation but not believing it when it happens.
Becoming a perfectionist is hard to avoid.
When dealing with imposter syndrome, you’re so afraid of failing that you end up working harder and aiming for perfection. There is no such thing as ‘good enough’. Every single mistake or flaw, no matter how small, is grounds for self-deprecation. That flaw might let people see the real you- the not perfect you. It might reveal that you don’t actually deserve what you have. That you aren’t qualified and shouldn’t be listened to. And so you strive to make sure that everything is perfect because it has to be. You have to be.
Societal pressure doesn’t help.
No matter how great, kind, brave, etc. you try to be, if you have a public account on social media, there is always the chance of someone trying to tear you down. Maybe showing up in your comments or your dms, pointing out a flaw or criticizing you. When you have imposter syndrome, it’s a lot harder to shake it off. Instead you start getting in your own head, worrying that the troll is right and now everyone will see that.
There are also so many different accounts that you can compare yourself too, and the grass will always look greener. You start thinking that just because you aren’t doing things the same way as someone else, that you’re doing it wrong. Or you see someone who has been in business for a lot longer than you and start doubting that you’ll ever get to where they are.
Imposter Syndrome shows up in all different areas of life.
You’ll see it in entrepreneurs who start thinking that they should just give up because no one is going to like their products. In students who want to drop out of college because they feel like they don’t belong. Maybe the person in the office who just got promoted and is terrified that it was a mistake because they are sure they’re going to screw it up. In a relationships (and friendships), it can show up as waiting for your partner to realize you’re not actually that great and get bored of you.
Whether in your career, your hobbies, your relationships… Imposter syndrome can cause distress and anxiety. The combination of trying to be perfect, trying to do it all, and being terrified of being revealed as a failure or fake can have a strong effect on your day to day life. You might start withdrawing, overanalyzing or taking on too much. Procrastination because you’re afraid that once you start, your great idea won’t go as planned, or burning out because you were afraid of saying no to anything and letting someone down.
Imposter syndrome can be caused by a lot of different things…
I mentioned a few of those things earlier in this post… The first was that you’ve spent time with a narcissist. The reason I make that claim is that a narc gets his or her power from putting others down, manipulating them to feel small. And so if you’ve been involved with a narcissist, odds are you’ve been flat out told that you don’t deserve good things. You’ve been criticized, devalued and belittled, maybe even laughed at. After a while, it’s hard not to take this to heart and start thinking that it’s true.
I also mentioned anxiety, adhd and trauma brain. All three of these change the way that your mind operates. Anxiety and trauma brain can trigger you to overanalyze everything and worry constantly that you might be putting yourself in danger or setting yourself up to get hurt. While ADHD, especially if not diagnosed, can cause you to see yourself as lazy or unorganized because the systems that work for neurotypical individuals don’t necessarily work for you. You might attempt to hide your struggles or differences, worrying about what people will think if they find out.
Imposter syndrome also spurs from dealing with high expectations in childhood, being afraid of letting people (parents, teachers, etc.) down. You upbringing as well as the people you surround yourself with can definitely cause you to see yourself differently or worry about how others will see you, which can then lead to feeling like you can’t measure up. Starting a new position or transition can cause this feeling as well.
There are 5 different types of imposter syndrome.
- The perfectionist: As I mentioned above, everything needs to be perfect or you will drive yourself crazy with shame and fear.
- The super-hero: There can’t be anything that you’re not able to do. Every job, every role- you have to be able to step in with ease or you’re a joke.
- The expert: You need to know everything. Otherwise, you’ve failed.
- The natural genius: It’s all supposed to be easy for you. If it’s hard, it’s because you’re a failure who doesn’t deserve success.
- The soloist: you have to do it all. Don’t ask for help and don’t delegate, or they’ll see that you’re a fake.
Try to recognize your strengths.
I’m going to try to dive further into ways to feel better or combat your imposter syndrome later this month, but for now, I’d like to encourage you to recognize your strengths. Rather than worrying about why you’re going to fail or why you’re a fraud, focus on what you’ve done right. What skills or experiences have gotten you to where you are today? Why should people listen to you? What makes you who you are? Make a list and turn the reasons into affirmations and then repeat them often to remind yourself that you are actually a pretty cool badass who deserves everything she wants.
And then remind yourself that you matter and you are worthy of it all.