Have you ever felt that you do not deserve the praise you are receiving? Or that a person is complimenting you just so that you do not feel bad? Or whatever good is happening in your life is because of luck, and you have no contribution to it? Do the words imposter syndrome ring a bell?
If your answer to any of the questions mentioned above is ‘Yes,’ then welcome to the world of imposter syndrome.
An Impostor is a person who pretends to be someone else to trick people. But the question is, what exactly is Impostor Syndrome? According to Wikipedia, impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern where a person doubts their talents, skills, or accomplishments and has constant self-doubt that luck. They live in constant fear of being exposed as fraud.
Impostor Syndrome was first used in 1978 in the article, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.” The research was done on 150 high-achieving women before writing it, and the results were shocking.
Despite consistent external validation, these women lived in self-doubt and lacked internal acknowledgment of their accomplishments. The participants explained how their success resulted from luck, and others are simply overestimating their abilities.
The mental framework for Impostor Syndrome is believed to be developed from factors such as gender stereotypes, culture, and family dynamics. Though men also suffer from Impostor Syndrome, it is more common in women. It is accompanied by anxiety, stress, or depression.
Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Maya Angelou, and Michelle Obama are a few well-known individuals suffering from it. Nobel Prize Winner Paul Nurse has mentioned an incident where he told his fellow prize winner Tim Hunt that he felt unworthy of the prize after receiving it.
As a matter of fact, two out of every three people suffer from Impostor Syndrome. However, the numbers vary with the settings.
A high level of perfectionism, insecurities, and social inequalities contribute significantly to the Imposter Syndrome, but these are external factors. What is most fascinating is the internal mechanism behind Imposter Syndrome.
According to research conducted by Chrousos, Imposter Syndrome changes the activity of the stress system similar to that of anxiety, and depression causing dysphoric distress, which means unhappiness, and leads to stress.
Another research conducted by Mccarthy explains why women who suffer from Imposter Syndrome have high testosterone levels associated with hierarchy, social dominance, and competition.
According to various researchers, a higher level of perfectionism, fear of success, or failure could make one underestimate their abilities. Another research conducted by Young in 2019 suggests that sometimes Imposter Syndrome can be a self-deceiving technique, aiming to lower anxiety during the external judgment of performance, despite internal self-confidence.
Treatments and Cure
Since this syndrome is a problem, there has to be a solution, but first, you need to accept that there is a problem. Talking to mentors, family and remembering things you are good at will provide you an insight to beat Imposter Syndrome. Moreover, realizing that no one is perfect and focusing on the positive things happening in life will help you overcome them.
If one feels that Imposter Syndrome has a significant impact on their life, they can seek help from mental health professionals by attending therapy sessions. Moreover, researchers will discover drugs or any medications to cure Imposter Syndrome, but currently, therapy is the only available option for more severe cases.
This is a widespread phenomenon. It happens to many people, and many of them do not realize that they are struggling with this. All I want to say is that it is not something that will be cured overnight.
It is essential to understand that perfectionism is a very subjective thing, and achieving it is impossible. It requires a lot of conditioning and willpower. Be kind to yourself. It requires us to accept our flaws and ourselves for who we are, and no matter how difficult it is- “If there is a will, then there is a way.”