But you’re not alone because over 70% of people admit that they have experienced impostor syndrome at least once. It is a cognitive distortion, which means a negative thinking pattern. Because of it, your body produces a cascade of emotions that might leave you feeling stressed, anxious or insecure. Today, I will tell you what might cause imposter syndrome, the different types and how to overcome it.
What causes imposter syndrome?
As often in psychology, multiple factors are at work here. Your personality traits
, upbringing and environment might influence this phenomenon. You might suffer from perfectionism, have grown up with intense academic pressure or experienced a highly competitive environment. Research also suggests that culture has its part in it and can function as a pressure cooker where expectations are boiling up. Groups who experience stereotypes about competence or intelligence are at risk of not only being judged but feeling being judged and criticized.
What triggers it?
Any situation that produces self-doubt can trigger imposter syndrome: receiving an award, being promoted, starting a new school/university or speaking in front of a crowd. These are settings where attention is drawn to you or your success. But you could also be triggered after negative experiences, for example, after failing one or a few exams. Then you conclude that you are an overall failure/disaster and will never succeed… at all… in anything… ever…
Why is this a problem?
If you occasionally question yourself, that is healthy, but if you do this very often and it impacts your daily life, it can result in a problem. Ask yourself if the feeling is based on a particular situation or an ongoing experience. Is it persistent and starting to impact you? Is it feeling like it weighs on you?
What are the five types of an impostor?
1. The Perfectionist
This person focuses a lot on “how” something is done and how it turns out. If just 1% is flawed despite 99% being perfect, it signifies failure and shame.
2. The Expert
This type concentrates on the “what” and “how much,” referring to knowledge. The expectation is to know everything, and again 1% of not knowing can result in disappointment and embarrassment.
3. The Soloist
Who completes the task is important here, and the answer is you and only you. The urge is to figure out everything on your own and not accept help. Otherwise, here we go again, a feeling of failure and a sense of humiliation.
4. The Natural Genius
The focus lies in how and when you master everything, and it has to be with ease and quickly. If you struggle once or encounter problems that are not easy to master, letdown and shame strike.
5. The Superhuman
This type juggles it all alone, holds all the roles and must excel at it. If you’re not able to be the perfect student, friend, roommate, child, volunteer and athlete at the same time, you know by now feelings of failure and guilt are evoked.
Now, what to do? Here are a few tips…
- Recognize and reflect on what is going on: “There is this feeling again, I feel ashamed and want to dig a hole to hide in…”
- Question yourself: Is this really the truth? Look at the facts and the bigger picture.
- Rephrase and find answers to these questions: Why do I believe this? Why am I feeling this way? Would I be happy for a friend who got this award? (“I worked so hard for it, I do deserve the praise/award/raise!”)
- Embrace your success: Be proud of what you achieved, don’t brush it off. Make a list of every success ever. Then sit in it and feel proud! This will affirm your self-worth.
- Talk with someone about it: Hearing an outsider’s perspective, if you don’t trust your thinking, can put you into place. Talking it out will show you the reality of the situation and give you an accurate picture.
Want to know what imposter type you are? Here is a test
from the Imposter Syndrome Institute if you’re eager to learn more about yourself…
P.S.: It was nice meeting you all at Stanstead College
a few weeks ago!Andrea Schmitt is a life coach specializing in teens and a former Stanstead parent (Jessica Lozano Schmitt 2018). Find out more about her services at https://www.globalgirlcoach.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.